The Cleveland Cavaliers have a throwback feel to them in that at full strength, they can field a lineup of three players of at least 6-foot-11. It does, however, come with a slightly modern touch.
Evan Mobley is the uber-talented rookie that has easily exceeded expectations and will be a franchise cornerstone for years to come. Lauri Markkanen, who is currently nursing a right ankle sprain, has slowly been adjusting to his perimeter role thanks in part to his ability to shoot the 3-pointer. At the center of it all, is Jarrett Allen.
Allen, who not too long ago was selected by the Brooklyn Nets with the 22nd overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is one of the Cavaliers’ foundational pieces and has fully assimilated into partnering up with Mobley and Markkanen to form one of the more imposing and talented frontcourts in the league.
The former Texas Longhorn, who has a passion for tech and building computers, has bucked the modern trend for NBA centers by providing a steady presence on the court. Most of his shots come from close range and the fact that his field goal percentage in that area is higher even than the likes of Nikola Jokic, Joel Embiid, and Rudy Gobert gives Cleveland all the confidence to leave him on the floor. He does a stellar job on the defensive end as well, gobbling up rebounds and altering shots that come his way.
In the game against the New Orleans Pelicans, Allen helped keep the Cavaliers in the game for the first three quarters. His efforts largely atoned for the struggles of Mobley (four points, five rebounds) and the absence of Darius Garland, who was dealing with a sore lower back.
Allen along with Lamar Stevens were the only double-digit scorers for Cleveland entering the final quarter, but it proved to be just enough as Brandon Goodwin took over in the fourth quarter. Goodwin scored 12 of his career-high 21 points in the final quarter and led the Cavaliers’ rally from a nine-point fourth-quarter deficit on the way to a 93-90 win.
Allen finished with 16 points, eight rebounds, two blocks, and scored the game-tying basket with 1:31 left in the game. Even amidst the chaos, count on Allen to be there to put it down with authority.
On the season, Allen is averaging 16.1 points (on 67.7 percent field goal shooting), 10.8 rebounds, and 1.9 assists through 43 games, numbers that are easily career-highs. That he still averages a little over 10 rebounds is a feat in itself considering he shares the floor with two seven-footers, with Kevin Love also coming off the bench. Part of this is due to his nose for the ball on both ends of the floor, which allows him to find the ball for easy putbacks or outlet passes.
Allen has already developed chemistry with Mobley, finding the former USC Trojan for easy baskets inside and having soft hands to catch his younger teammate’s nifty passes. Defensively, Mobley’s ability to cover players on the perimeter allows Allen to man the paint, but he too can recover when the need arises. Their efforts have also helped Cleveland limit their opponents to a league-best 57.7 percent shooting from within five feet. With the way they have played halfway through the season, any questions on their fit together should be put to rest.
Among the Cavaliers next 10 opponents, the games against the Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia 76ers, and the Minnesota Timberwolves should be on Allen’s radar considering he will be facing some of the NBA’s marquee big men. Embiid will always be a handful to defend and will definitely be a litmus test to Allen’s capabilities as a defender. Domantas Sabonis and Karl Anthony-Towns are skilled big men as well, and will likely push Allen to his limits.
The Cleveland Cavaliers have easily eclipsed their 22-win total last season, and they are on pace for their highest win total since LeBron James’ last season in Cleveland back in 2017-2018. Certainly a lot of factors contributed to this turnaround but it’s safe to say that Jarrett Allen’s presence in the middle for the Cavaliers has played a crucial part in their recent success.