It may feel as if Jarrett Allen has been on your radar forever — and, now in his fourth year in the NBA, you’d be right! Still, the Brooklyn Nets’ center Allen is only 22-years-old and, thus far in the 2020-21 season, he’s looked to be on the precipice of stardom. Despite the fact that he’s only started four games, Allen has averaged 11.6 points, 10.9 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 25.8 minutes per game. Per-36, his numbers are even gaudier: 16.2 points, 15.2 rebounds and 2.2 blocks.
At those rates, any team would be lucky to have Allen on their roster. And, more than likely, he’d be their starter! So what’s the deal in Brooklyn?
The team’s disconnect would appear to lie squarely with their stars, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, and their perceived preference to play alongside their friend, DeAndre Jordan. Of course, the now widely-believed rumor could easily be put to bed by Durant or Irving, but neither player has publicly disavowed the idea that they prefer to play alongside Jordan. And, to his credit, Jordan is an established center who, at his best, was an All-Star and an elite rim-runner.
But Jordan, now 32, was an All-Star and elite rim-runner. He’s just not the same player anymore, as his 4.1 points, 7.0 rebounds and 1.3 blocks in 17.8 minutes per game can attest.
Through the season’s first two weeks, and while Allen had made it clear he’s the more impactful player, head coach Steve Nash beat back the pressure to start him in order to avoid any drama between players.
“[Jordan] definitely has that relationship with Ky and Kevin,” Nash said recently. “He has that experience as the older player. Caris [LeVert] and [Allen] also have good chemistry. So, it’s a bit of everything.
“It’s just not something I’m belaboring. Jarrett’s going to play a lot. I love him on the floor. I want to be very careful not to make it like a mini-drama because it’s not.”
That said, and if the last four games are anything to go by, he may not have been able to hold back any longer. Since Nash made those comments, Allen has started four straight games and, in his first start against the Utah Jazz, he responded with 19 points, 18 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 blocks against one of the NBA’s best at the position, Rudy Gobert In his four starts, Allen has averaged 15.3 11.3 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game.
Looking back at the situation that sparked the discussion of Allen vs. Jordan in the starting lineup, it is widely believed that the debate was a driving force behind former head coach Kenny Atkinson’s departure from Brooklyn. Allen was less than pleased to learn about the coaching change and he reiterated that his former coach was no less effective, at least from his perspective.
“(Atkinson)’s my guy,” Allen said last season after Atkinson’s departure was finalized. “I was ready to fight for him.”
Allen’s name had since surfaced in trade rumors, linking him to the Houston Rockets as part of a hypothetical deal for James Harden. And the Nets could, for sure, trade Allen — and they’d get a pretty good return for the young rim protector. But they can and, if their goal is sustained, long-term success, should attempt to re-sign and extend him — assuming Allen would even want to, given everything that’s transpired since the offseason.
Of course, there are salary cap implications that could alter their decision as well. The Nets are already on the hook for $156 million this season. Next season, before any potential Allen extension, that number is once again expected to be at least $150 million. While owner Joe Tsai doesn’t appear to be bashful as far as spending is concerned, the Nets are expected to pay between $31-$43 million in a luxury tax this season, a figure that might give pause to any execurtive considering back-to-back season’s above the tax level; would he green light a long-term deal that guarantees that sort of penalty for the foreseeable future, even when his stars prefer a different, much cheaper center?
Whichever lane they choose, and regardless of Tsai’s preference, Brooklyn’s deadline would appear to draw ever closer: March 25, the 2020-21 trade deadline. As Allen and the Nets failed to agree to a contract extension prior to the season, he is expected to garner significant interest both on the trade market or as a restricted free agent should the team think they can re-sign him. And, while he may not command a max-extension like draftmates class De’Aaron Fox, Donovan Mitchell, Bam Adebayo and Jayson Tatum, Allen, arguably, deserves more than Christian Wood (3 years/$41 million) and Kyle Kuzma (3 years/$40 million).
Bobby Marks, Brooklyn’s former assistant general manager, added fuel to the fire around Allen’s contract controversy: “He’s looking for Clint Capela-type of money,” Marks said to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst on a recent podcast. “That would mean $90 million over five years. Capela got that deal back in 2018, when he was two years older than Allen is now.”
Further complicating matter for Brooklyn: with an average age of 27.3 years old — a number drastically different from the average of 25.4-years-old they sported just two seasons ago — the Nets have the seventh oldest roster in the NBA. And, obviously, without the 22-year-old Allen, that figure would look even worse. Do Allen and his development still even fit into the Brooklyn’s timeline? The idea that he’s a priority is certainly no longer a foregone conclusion.
It’s pretty clear that Nash knows who the best center in Brooklyn is. But will inserting him in the starting lineup be detrimental to his team’s synergy? Or, worse, could it create a rift between himself, Durant and Irving? Should Nets’ general manager Sean Marks decide to trade Allen and avoid the potential conflict, will it even matter?
And, most importantly, does Allen even want to be in Brooklyn anymore?
Allen, like most seasoned interviewers, can twist his words in order to reveal as much or as little as he’s like, so it’s hard to gauge his satisfaction with the Nets. Recent events, such as Irving opting out of games this past Thursday and Sunday, could be just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the drama that goes along with playing for a contender in the New York metropolitan area. And, while there is no indication that Irving’s absences have hurt any relationships, the scrutiny from the media will only grow once reporters are allowed back into arena locker rooms. And Allen, native to the quiet suburbs of Austin, Texas, might prefer a calmer environment.
Everything could be just peachy between Allen and the Nets. But, in a few short months, we may be more focused on trade destinations for Allen rather than potential contract figures. But, for now, the most we can do is just stay tuned.
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