Here we go again. It only took Grayson Allen, Utah Jazz draftee, 68 minutes of NBA (summer league) basketball to remind us why some teams were hesitant to draft him.
Minutes after halftime in the Jazz’s summer league matchup with the Atlanta Hawks on Thursday, Grayson Allen and Trae Young got tied up at the top of the key. Like almost every other tie up in the history of basketball, the two separated themselves with a few shoves from each side, and walked away.
No big deal, right? At least it shouldn’t be…
But this wasn’t just any NBA skuffle, it was a Grayson Allen skuffle, which, by default, makes it a huge deal. After tripping three opponents on three different occasions at Duke, Grayson Allen quickly became College Basketball’s easiest player to hate.
Not only was Allen a “dirty player,” he was a Blue Devil, and he was good. Really good. Those three attributes usually don’t produce many fans outside Durham, NC. Just ask Christian Laettner and JJ Reddick.
Allen’s ultra competitiveness and aggression raised questions about his self control and maturity, scaring many NBA teams away from drafting him. But at pick number 21 in the first round, the Utah Jazz selected the recent Duke graduate with their fingers crossed, hoping that he had matured under the leadership of Coach K during his four years at Duke.
But has he really matured? Are the Jazz already regretting their first round pick?
While some say Grayson Allen will be nothing more than two free-throws and the ball for the other team in the NBA, I think the Jazz should be encouraged by Allen’s play this summer.
Remember who Grayson Allen is and why the Jazz drafted him. Great shooter. Off the charts athlete. Solid defender. Leader. But Allen’s greatest attribute has always been that he always wants to win more than any player, coach, or fan in the arena. But as we were reminded of on Thursday, his competitive mindset has a tendency to create some trouble.
His greatest strength is also his greatest weakness.
The Jazz drafting Grayson Allen is like your typical redneck buying dangerously big fireworks to light up outside his wood cabin on the 4th of July. The goal is to get the biggest, loudest fireworks possible without catching the house on fire. Sure, some sparks may land on the roof, but that’s no big deal if the house doesn’t burn down.
In fact, the best redneck in this scenario will tell you that if you don’t have some sparks land on the house, you didn’t buy big enough fireworks.
If you’re the Utah Jazz, you drafted Grayson Allen because he’s a competitor and winning basketball games is in his DNA. The only question was if he could he be competitive, but not so competitive that he catches the house on fire. And by catching the house on fire, I mean tripping an opponent, getting called for a technical, and having an emotional breakdown on the bench.
Grayson Allen’s latest incident with Trae Young is nothing more than some sparks on the roof. Trae Young was the one who shoved first. Allen simply pushed back, caught himself immediately after, and walked away.
In fact, if I’m the Utah Jazz, I would be more worried if Grayson Allen did NOT respond because that could mean Grayson over corrected and might not be as competitive as he used to be.
Most importantly, Allen caught himself once he started to push back. Who knows how Duke sophomore, Grayson Allen would have reacted in this situation. He clearly matured during his senior year, which is great news for the Jazz.
Grayson Allen is going to continue to get on people’s nerves. Not because he’s “a dirty player.” Not because he went to Duke. Grayson Allen is annoying in the NBA because he gives 100% in a league that has an unwritten rule to give 75% during untelevised regular season games that “don’t matter.”
Do you remember that kid in 6th grade that got on everyone’s nerves because he was the only one actually trying during pick-up at recess? That’s Grayson Allen. He doesn’t care that it’s only pick-up. He wants to win.
His physicality and effort will continue to be mistaken for unfair play because his drive to win is a foreign concept to players like Trae Young and others he’ll face in the league this year.
While it has caused some trouble in the past, Grayson Allen’s competitive attitude is a diamond in the rough of today’s NBA. The Jazz organization was wise to see it. Now they need him to make more shots.
(McLean Albritton is a boarding student at McCallie School and lives in Birmingham, Ala. He has an endless appetite for SEC Football, NCAA Basketball, and Champy’s Famous Fried Chicken. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org)