Brooklyn Nets – Can Jarrett Allen and DeAndre Jordan Share the Court?In 2018-2019, the Nets’ frontcourt of (mainly) Jarrett Allen and Ed Davis were blitzed on defense, allowing around 20%+ more scoring than league average to opposing centers. A lack of interior size all around, power forward included, led to real problems whenever Brooklyn faced big teams with solid interior post play. Think the 76ers and Embiid in the playoffs, or really any other game during the season.
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With the addition of DeAndre Jordan in free agency, as a buffer/catalyst for the Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant signings, Brooklyn, I suppose, was hoping to kill two birds with the same stone hands, adding a veteran interior presence who could body some of the bigger centers in the league. He will add size, in addition to Allen, that could help band-aid some of the interior defensive issues.
*It’s worth mentioning that while Allen and Jordan are the *same* height (6’11), DeAndre is about 30 pounds heavier.
So now the Nets have two centers and it isn’t likely they’ll start together. But will the Nets work to play them at the same time? That’s an interesting question for how Kenny Atkinson works his in-season rotations and as the host of a Brooklyn Nets Podcast, I’m fascinated to see it possibly implemented. Some teams, like the aforementioned 76ers are already trending bigger, committed to playing Joel Embiid (7’0) and Al Horford (6’10) in the starting lineup. We could see the Pacers do the same with Domantas Sabonis (6’11) and Myles Turner (6’11) now that Thaddeus Young is out of the picture.
For a pairing like this to work on the Nets one specific thing will need to happen: Allen will need to be able to stretch the court some, ranging out beyond the arc for sequences as at least a moderate threat to knock down the three. That latter piece is something the Nets *experimented* with at times last season. Here’s a look at Allen’s shot chart.
The good news first: The Nets “tried” it. He attempted 0.6 3PTers per game, almost exclusively from the corners. The Nets were at least attempting something here, not pressing his attempts above the break and probably signaling something along the lines of, “On D’Angelo Russell drives/ clearouts you are either the primary screener to dive to the basket OR stand in the corner, don’t move and shoot only if wide open.” That’s fine considering he’s young and this is a new thing.
The bad news is that he stunk at it, hitting only 13% of his 45 attempts. That, of course, is brutal and wouldn’t often be something you’d want to continue trying. Except that there are signs that this could be an area of potential growth for Allen.
If you are interested, here’s a list with videos of all of Allen’s three-point attempts from last season courtesy of the awesomeness of stats.nba.com. I watched almost all of them and came away thinking, “this guy won’t be a 13% 3PT shooter for long.”
There’s also reason to believe that free-throw percentages have correlative effects on predicting NBA three-point shooting, posited in articles like this one on Medium two years ago. The findings are encouraging when trying to project whether a player can begin ranging further from the basket. The data set was an attempt to predict the move from college to pros as a three-point shooter, but the findings should translate considering the dimensions on free-throws are the same between levels.
Allen is a solid free throw shooter. At Texas, in his freshman (and only) year he averaged 4.5 attempts per game and made them at 57% rate. So not a great sign, but if the same translatable correlation works for the NBA then we can be encouraged by the improvements made over his first two seasons. In his rookie year, Allen attempted two FTs per game and made then at a 78% rate. Last season, the attempts increased to 3.5 per game (on the back of more playing time) but the efficiency dropped to 71%, still a marked improvement on his college career.
Watching Allen’s release one can see he has a fluid, if a bit long, style with a high release point that could translate to working if pushed out beyond the arc more.*
(*Admittedly, I’m not a “form” expert here beyond just general eye test. Happy to hear a counter-point to his release and stroke. )
I also tend to believe there will be more opportunities for Allen to try this approach with the new personnel. Last season, Brooklyn tasked their bigs with getting to and hanging around the basket more on offense, finishing in the top-10 of offensive rebounding for the season. Allen rolled to / hung out around the basket as much as possible because they had no other size.
Among players with 1800 or more minutes last season which essentially represents dudes who played a majority of the season injury free, Allen ranked in the top in offensive rebounding per minute. But now they’ve added someone to pick up that role as well. DeAndre Jordan was seventh in that offensive rebounding stat and is a notorious rebound hunter for better and sometimes worse:
If on the court together, Allen wouldn’t have this as a primary motivation, able to feel more comfortable staying away from the basket for longer stretches if he could keep the defense even a little bit honest.
Which all begs the question: Can the two big men coexist on the court together? I think there are real positive signs that they can and that that Nets will give it a try. For starters, I believe we will continue to see year-over-year growth in Allen’s three-point attempts. This is a necessary starting point. Allen attempted twice the number of threes per minute last season than in his rookie year. That they all came from the same two spots means it wasn’t just a haphazard approach. Those attempts amounted to less than one a game, but there were more attempts for sure. Without increased growth in this area the ability to play Allen and Jordan together will be dead on the vine. And don’t mistake, this piece isn’t going to come from the DeAndre side who isn’t going to start stretching the floor at this point in his career.
Secondly, the Nets will have their hands forced some because of the aforementioned size of some of their opponents like Philly and Indy. If there’s a reason to start going double-big in games, those matchups will be the ones lest Brooklyn gets completely slaughtered on the interior.
And finally, with Kevin Durant out for the better part (or maybe all) of the season, the time to experiment and push players out of comfort zones will be early. I suspect there’s a longer leash on “figuring out” pairings and rotations. This almost has to be one of them to try and work.
The NBA is a 3-and-D league, that won’t change. The key for teams in the short term has been finding the centers/ bigs who can adapt their game to the league. Former Net Brook Lopez did it, Marc Gasol has as well. Will Allen be next? I think we are going to see a lot more of it and it could usher in a Nets’ twin towers lineup. Something like 8-9 minutes per game together would represent a major shift in the way the Nets approach the game and their scheme and it a real possibility in this upcoming season.
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