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.”
Teams Refuse To Back Down To Stacked Warriors
Golden State got better over the summer, but that didn’t stop others from trying to stop them from repeating as champions
Opening week is finally upon us.
Appropriately enough, the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics will kick off the 2017-18 NBA season tomorrow night, as will the defending champion Golden State Warriors when they host the improved Houston Rockets.
The clear-cut favorites to win the league title are the ones who have done so two out of the past three years, and rightfully so. Warriors general manager Bob Myers has done a masterful job of assembling a juggernaut. They’ve kept their insanely talented core intact and—aside from Ian Clark and Matt Barnes—haven’t lost any of their key bench pieces to free agency.
In fact, Golden State has added to that dangerous second unit. Jordan Bell was bought from the Chicago Bulls and will bring another Draymond Green-esque impact almost immediately. Nick Young and Omri Casspi were brought in to fill the void of backup wings, which is an improvement at the position anyway. With the same roster as last year and better reserves to give the starters a breather, there’s no reason Steve Kerr and company can’t repeat if they stay healthy.
Knowing what the Warriors are capable of and how well they are set up to truly be a dynasty, there are some league executives out there who are hesitant to make significant moves that could potentially flop against such a powerhouse.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported back in middle June that select teams don’t want to risk a big play because of it. What that basically translates into is: We’re throwing in the white towel until that ball club disbands.
But luckily for fans and for parity’s sake, there was a handful of general managers that refused to take that path. Just looking down the list in the Western Conference, there were organizations that swung for the fences this summer.
The aforementioned Rockets are one of them.Daryl Morey pieced together multiple trades to allow him to land Chris Paul to play next to James Harden and form a dynamic backcourt tandem. Houston also signed a pair of veteran two-way players in Luc Mbah a Moute and P.J. Tucker to provide depth and defense.
What about the Oklahoma City Thunder? Just when we thought Russell Westbrook’s MVP season was enough to maybe build off, the unthinkable happened. Sam Presti unloaded Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis to Indiana after just one season with the team to add All-Star forward Paul George, who is in a contract year.
That blockbuster move was followed up with another two months later, as Presti decided to deal fan favorite Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott to the Knicks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony. The creation of a Westbrook-George-Anthony big three forms an elite trio that is determined to prove championship worthiness.
Top tier Eastern Conference counterparts did their due diligence as well. The Cavaliers and Celtics are essentially rivals and became trade partners in an attempt to re-tool their respective rosters, in addition to gaining important pieces outside of that.
Boston inked Gordon Hayward to a maximum contract to create a bolstered starting unit alongside Isaiah Thomas, Avery Bradley, and Al Horford until madness happened.
Firstly, Bradley got moved in a swap with the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to address the hole at power forward. After that—with reports of Kyrie Irving’s unhappiness in Cleveland swirling around the basketball universe—Celtics general manager Danny Ainge acted immediately and swung a deal for the All-Star point guard in exchange for his All-Star point guard, a vital member of his team in Jae Crowder and the coveted Brooklyn Nets first-round pick.
It’s almost a brand new squad, but Brad Stevens has a versatile group to work with to try and finally dethrone the conference champions of the last three years.
As for the East’s cream of the crop, the Cavaliers moves are well known because wherever LeBron James goes the spotlight follows. Thomas and Crowder were huge gets for first-time general manager Koby Altman, especially after the outside growing doubt in the franchise’s front office. The rookie executive was also instrumental in signing Derrick Rose, Jeff Green, and Dwyane Wade to veteran minimum contracts.
Rose and Green have plenty of motivation because their critics think they’re washed up, meaning Tyronn Lue won’t have to give them a reason to play their hearts out. Wade simply made the decision to come to Cleveland because he can play with his best friend and potentially add to his collection of championship rings.
Ante Zizic, Cedi Osman, and Jose Calderon are also now a part of the roster that all-of-a-sudden is now deep at almost every position. It’s a new flavor for a team that may have only one year left to compete for a title with James’ pending free agency next summer.
Those four teams feel great about their chances to get in the way of the Warriors. It doesn’t stop there though. The West in general loaded up.
The Minnesota Timberwolves executed the first big move of the year when they traded for Jimmy Butler. The Denver Nuggets signed Paul Millsap to provide leadership and a veteran voice in a young locker room full of talent. The San Antonio Spurs lost Jonathan Simmons but brought in a very capable Rudy Gay under-the-radar as Kawhi Leonard’s backup.
Nobody expected the league to completely fold and hand Golden State another championship, but it was surprising (and relieving) to see so many teams have the fortitude to pull off the moves that they did. There was definitely risk involved for some of them, however, one thing is for certain.
The Warriors will not have a cakewalk to the NBA Finals. They will have to go through a rigorous set of teams in the West throughout the regular season and the playoffs.
If any team is up to the task, it’s Golden State. But we’ll see how it plays out starting about 24 hours from now.
See you at tip-off.
NBA League Pass Debuts for 2017-18 Season
NBA League Pass has launched for the 2017-18 season. Basketball Insiders has the details.
The NBA and Turner Sports have launched NBA League Pass for the 2017-18 season, with several new features and pricing options available. NBA League Pass, a subscription-based service, will be available to users across 19 different platforms, from television and broadband to tablets, mobile and a plethora of connected devices.
In addition, an important note: As of Monday, NBA League Pass subscribers who have already purchased their access through a TV provider (Comcast, DirecTV, Dish, etc.) are now able to link their account to the NBA’s streaming service at no additional charge. The link to do this can be found here.
Basketball Insiders has you covered with a breakdown of all the new details immediately available. We will also be bringing you a detailed breakdown of certain important technological areas later in the week.
New or improved features of NBA League Pass include:
- Improved video quality for streaming League Pass content developed by iStreamPlanet, a high-level video streaming entity working in partnership with NBA Digital. Included among these improvements are faster delivery time for live feeds, reducing notable lag time present in previous versions. More detail on these video quality improvements will be featured in our breakdown later this week.
- A new premium package that includes continuous in-arena coverage, even during commercials. This allows fans to view team huddles, live entertainment and other venue features that make them feel closer to the experience.
- A season-long virtual reality subscription package via NBA Digital and NextVR, available to all premium and traditional NBA League Pass subscribers (also available to international subscribers and single-game purchasers beginning in week two of the NBA season). Access will be available across Samsung Gear VR, Google Daydream and Windows Mixed Reality.
- Coverage of pre-game warmups and other in-arena events.
- Spanish-language video coverage for select games, as well as Spanish-language audio continuing for select games.
- NBA Mobile view will contain a zoomed-in, tighter shot of game action that’s optimized for mobile devices.
Pricing for NBA League Pass has not changed for traditional access, and will remain at $199.99 for the full season. New monthly-based subscriptions are now also available, both for the full package and for individual teams. Full pricing will be as follows:
- Traditional NBA League Pass (full league): $199.99
- Premium NBA League Pass: $249.99
- NBA Team Pass: $119.99
- Single Game Pass: $6.99
- Virtual Reality package: $49.99
- Premium monthly subscription: $39.99
- Traditional League Pass monthly subscription: $28.99
- NBA Team Pass monthly subscription: $17.99
As previously reported by Basketball Insiders, upgrades are also expected on the TV side of NBA League Pass, particularly through Comcast, which has had the largest share of customer issues for this product in recent years. While only a single nightly HD channel was available via Comcast XFINITY League Pass previously, sources tell Basketball Insiders that all games will be available in HD through Comcast’s Beta channel package by the end of November (or earlier).
This Beta package does have limitations, however, including users’ inability to record, pause or rewind games. The package that was available in previous season will continue to be available until (and after) the Beta package is active, and subscribers will get access to both for no additional charge.
Check back with Basketball Insiders later in the week for a full rundown of the technological improvements being made to NBA League Pass.
NBA AM: 50 NBA Predictions for 2017-2018
As he always does, Joel Brigham makes 50 predictions for the forthcoming NBA season.
If there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s making NBA predictions that end up being correct right about half the time. Every season for as long as I’ve been writing about basketball, I’ve made 50 predictions about the forthcoming season, only to return to those predictions in the spring and berate myself for believing the things I believed back in the fall. It’s an annual emotional rollercoaster.
Well, it’s the fall, which means regardless of whether or not readers agree with these predictions, most can at least see how a good deal of them could come to fruition. Flip a coin, though, because last season I only went 21-for-42. Here’s to hoping I do a little better than that this season.
On to this season’s NBA predictions:
1. James Harden will lead the league in scoring this season.
2. Both he and Russell Westbrook will top 30 points per game.
3. DeAndre Jordan will lead the league in rebounds.
4. John Wall will be the only player in the league to average 10.0 or more assists per game.
5. J.J. Redick will be among the top eight players in the league in terms of three-pointers made.
6. Rudy Gobert will lead the league in blocks.
7. Once again, the Boston Celtics (not the Cleveland Cavaliers) will post the best record in the Eastern Conference.
8. Last season the Houston Rockets broke the record for most three-pointers attempted in an NBA season. They’re going to break that record again.
9. The Golden State Warriors are going to win a ton of games in 2017-2018, as they always do, but once again they will fall just a touch shy of 70 wins.
10. The Northwest Division (Denver, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Portland and Utah) will have more collective wins than any other division in basketball.
11. The Minnesota Timberwolves will win at least 20 more games than they did last season.
12. The three top scoring teams in the league all will be in the Western Conference.
13. Dennis Smith will be Rookie of the Year.
14. He also is going to lead all rookies in scoring.
15. Ben Simmons and Lonzo Ball both will average more than 6.5 assists per game.
16. Simmons and Philadelphia teammate Markelle Fultz both will be on the All-Rookie First Team.
17. John Collins will lead all rookies in rebounds and blocks.
18. Lauri Markkanen will lead all rookies in made three-pointers.
19. Jordan Bell will be this year’s most successful second-rounder.
20. One game or fewer will determine which team will be the 8th seed in the Western Conference playoffs and which team will have the least ping pong balls in the lottery that year.
21 Milwaukee will be a top-four seed in the Eastern Conference and will have homecourt advantage in the first round.
22. Philadelphia does make the postseason, but as a seventh or eighth seed.
23. For the fourth season in a row, it will be the Golden State Warriors and the Cleveland Cavaliers playing in the NBA Finals.
24. The Golden State Warriors will (once again) win the NBA championship.
25. Giannis Antetokounmpo will win the MVP award this year. With LeBron James likely being more restful than ever in the regular season and Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and James Harden deferring more often to other superstars on their respective teams, Antetokounmpo and Kawhi Leonard have the clearest road to individual dominance this year. Something tells me Giannis is on the precipice of doing some truly amazing things, both physically and statistically.
26. Kawhi Leonard will win Defensive Player of the Year. His streak was broken by Draymond Green a year ago. He’ll get it going again with a win in 2018.
27. Brad Stevens will win NBA Coach of the Year.
28. J.R. Smith is going to win Sixth Man of the Year. This award typically values scorers on good teams, and that’s exactly what J.R. is to going to be this year. If he had to get booted to the reserves, he may as well be the best one, right?
29. The Most Improved Player typically is someone who goes from being good to being elite, and that guy this year looks like it will be Joel Embiid, Kristaps Porzingis or Nikola Jokic. For the sake of settling on one, I’ll say Porzingis.
30. Danny Ainge will win Executive of the Year. Getting his hands on Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward without giving up much and landing a top rookie prospect in Jayson Tatum is about as good as it gets.
31. After finding himself in just about every single Phoenix Suns trade rumor over the course of the last three seasons, this is the year Eric Bledsoe finally gets moved midseason.
32. There are big questions surrounding New Orleans’ roster, which likely will lead to some DeMarcus Cousins trade rumors. The Pelicans will not, however, trade the All-Star big man.
33. In the midst of their rebuild, Atlanta will try to move Kent Bazemore, the most expensive player on their roster. They will not succeed in this.
34. There has been a Kenneth Faried mention in the trade predictions section of this article seemingly every year, so let’s keep it going. This is the year Faried finally gets shipped from Denver.
35. Jahlil Okafor will be a Chicago Bull by the end of the season.
36. Portland’s frontcourt is absolutely loaded. As such, at least one of their big men will get shipped by the deadline.
37. At least one of the Lopez twins will not finish the season on the same team he started the year playing with.
38. Cleveland’s “Brooklyn Pick,” despite being a hot commodity with the potential to bring in another star player for a championship run, will not change hands. That pick stays with Cleveland.
39. The Chicago Bulls have led the league in attendance for years, but not this season. If the Chicago Bears still are going to have tickets available on game day, so are the Bulls. This season, Cleveland leads the league in attendance for the first time ever.
40. The Atlanta Hawks will win the draft lottery.
For the second year in a row, my fellow writers at Basketball Insiders will bear the burden of making these predictions, and they too will be held accountable when we revisit these in the spring. Here’s a look at some of their bold predictions:
41. Joel Embiid will play at least 70 games this year. (Dennis Chambers).
42. Joel Embiid will not play 60 games. In the games he does play he will look awesome and put up amazing stats, but his absences will ultimately cost the Sixers the playoffs. (Steve Kyler).
43. Marcus Smart will shoot at least a league average percentage on deep balls this season. (Shane Rhodes).
44. Giannis Antetokounmpo will become the first player in NBA history to lead his team in points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks in back-to-back seasons (Tommy Beer).
45. This will be the first time in Carmelo Anthony’s Hall of Fame career that he will not average 20 points per game. (Lang Greene).
46. The Wizards will finish with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference, ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers. (Brian Fritz).
47. Blake Griffin and Danillo Gallinari both will play in at least 60 games this year. (Jesse Blancarte).
48. Lonzo Ball and Ben Simmons each will have at least ten triple doubles this season. (Michael Scotto).
49. Bogdan Bogdanovic will finish among the top three in Rookie of the Year voting. (Benny Nadeau).
50. The Memphis Grizzlies will miss the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. (Spencer Davies).
You’re going to read a lot of predictions articles this time of year, but I’m the only one who will come to these predictions at the end of the season to gauge how smart (or, more likely, how completely and utterly stupid) I was in making some of these. Check back in June for the wrap-up, and here’s to another great season of NBA basketball!