It’s often difficult for a player who is selected as one of the last 10 picks in the draft to make it in the NBA. The deck is definitely stacked against late second-rounders when it comes to making a roster and achieving longevity in the league. There are no guarantees. However, as he heads into his sixth NBA season, Indiana Pacers big man Lavoy Allen has found a way to beat the odds.
Drafted as the 50th pick in the second round of the 2011 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia Sixers, Allen has proven to be indispensable over his NBA career. Last season with the Pacers, Allen played in 79 games – starting in 28 of them. He averaged 5.4 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and shot a career-best 52 percent from the field. Allen’s +173 plus-minus rating was the best on the team last year, with Paul George coming in a distant second (+143).
Allen’s veteran leadership has provided the Pacers with production and experience off the bench. The big man’s do-whatever-it-takes-to-win mentality has enabled him to not only persevere, but also carve out a very specific niche for himself in the league, so much so that the Pacers signed him to a three-year deal worth $12 million in 2015. As Allen heads into the second year of his contract, expectations are high for not only him but also for the Pacers.
Basketball Insiders recently caught up with Allen to discuss the evolution of his professional career, the Pacers’ offseason moves, and how his approach to the game has helped him become the player that he is today.
Jake Rauchbach: At Temple, you were a 1,000-point, 1,000-rebound guy, and the school’s all-time leading rebounder. You had a great college career. What type of lessons from Temple did you take with you to make you successful in the league?
Lavoy Allen: “It’s hard work, really. I just tried to be really professional, be on time with everything and just work hard. Coach [Fran] Dunphy talked to us about how fortunate we were as college athletes; our school is paid for, our food is paid for, room and board. He always preached that. I really took that with me into the league, just to be grateful from where I came from to where I am now. I just try to continue to work hard, try not to complain too much, because there are a lot of people in the world who would rather be in my position than their’s. I work hard and try to be a good teammate.”
Rauchbach: Being selected as the 50th overall pick in the 2011 draft, nothing was guaranteed. What mentality did you take into your rookie year that allowed you to thrive?
Allen: “My mentality was to just to be ready for anything. Not a lot of second-rounders really make it in the league and have a long career. I got real lucky. Two of our bigs went down and my coach was pretty much forced to play me. When I got my opportunity I really performed well. That’s one of the things that older guys on the team like Andre Igoudala, Tony Battie and Elton Brand told me: ‘Be ready, stay in shape. You never know what’s going to happen.’ It’s not a good thing when two teammates go down, but I was real fortunate just to get the opportunity. And when my time came, I performed.”
Rauchbach: You signed a one-year deal your rookie season with the Sixers. Most rookies have more than a year to make their mark, but you only had one. Did that create a sense of urgency for you?
Allen: “Oh yeah, definitely. When I came in, that was the lockout year and I was over in France before that. So when I came in, I just tried to be real professional. I was always on time. Anything the veteran guys needed, I was trying to make them happy. I think it was about early February when they had a chance to cut me, and they didn’t cut me. By early February, my contract became guaranteed. So, I was doing everything I could just to keep everybody happy, just to stay on the team until after February.”
Rauchbach: You are going into your sixth season now, and you really have established yourself in the league. What do you think sets you apart, from a preparation and mindset point of view, from other late second-round picks who haven’t been able to carve out a niche in the league like you have been able to do?
Allen: “Really, I think my trainer helped me a lot. I have been working with a guy named Bobby Martin up in Boston ever since I was a sophomore in college, and I think he really prepared me for the journey. I went into my draft workouts in the best shape of my life. I pretty much was beating up on the guys that went in the first round. So, I knew I could play with those guys. It was just the opportunity. You know, once the opportunity came, I really tried to perform and be a hustle guy, get rebounds, dive on loose balls, things like that.
“Mentally, I think it’s just about becoming comfortable and being confident. Personally, I believe I can play with any of the guys, whether it’s starting or coming off the bench. I feel like, ‘Put me up against anybody and I will get the best of them.’ It’s just about being confident. Preparation wise, the game is changing. You have to run the floor and you have to be in really good shape. The Golden State Warriors pretty much messed up everybody else in the league. Every team is trying to be like them. So now, I gotta be in even better shape than I was the previous years, gotta drop some pounds and just be ready to play.”
Rauchbach: What are some things that you focus on when you’re going against the best big guys in the league?
Allen: “I just really think about my family. You know, this is my job so this is what puts food on the table and keeps a roof over their heads basically. It’s about my family. I got three young boys… my mother and father. My father, his health is depreciating, so I really think of him. I think of my older brother, who I lost when I was a senior in high school. I think those are things that motivate me to get me where I am at today.”
Rauchbach: What parts of your game have you been working on and developing this off-season?
Allen: “Putting the ball on the floor when I am the top of the key. I am not doing a bunch of crossovers, between the legs, stuff like that – just trying to score from the high-post.”
Rauchbach: What are your thoughts on what the Pacers have done with their offseason moves?
Allen: “I think they did a really good job. I probably would say out of all the teams, we probably will improve the most out of all the other teams in the league. We got a great point guard in Jeff Teague and backup point guard in Aaron Brooks – guys that are real accomplished in this league. Trading for Thaddeus Young, who is probably one of the fastest four men in the league, was great. Not many fours can keep up with this guy, I mean he runs like a guard. Myles [Turner] is developing; he is a great shot blocker, and a great shooter also. Having Big Al [Jefferson] come off the bench… he’s one of the best post players in the NBA. I think we did a lot of good things. I can see us being very successful this year.”
Rauchbach: Based on all those changes, how do you see your role changing this season?
Allen: “It’s not going to be too different. I started a couple games last year. I don’t think that will be the case this year. I’ll just do the same things – rebounding, running the floor, playing defense. You know, same stuff.”
Rauchbach: What are your individual goals for this season?
Allen: “If I get the opportunity, depending on how many minutes I get, just try to average a double-double. You never know what can happen. We could go small. You don’t know what can happen. But I think one of the things that I do best is rebounding, and I think I can rebound with the best of them. I just try to get a double double every time I get out there.”
Rauchbach: What is the outlook collectively for you guys this season?
Allen: “Deep playoff run.”
Rauchbach: What advice would you give other guys just like you who are late second-rounders or undrafted free agents trying to make it in the league?
Allen: “Just be ready. If you get the opportunity, just run away with it, but always be ready because you never know what can happen.”
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