Duke Guard Grayson Allen Tapped to Join Mitchell and the Jazz

June 21st, 2018 | by Dan Clayton

Jazz guards Allen and Mitchell are all smiles about teaming up. (Photo: Salt City Hoops)

Everything was going according to script for the No. 21 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft. Just like the 20 prospects selected before him, Grayson Allen celebrated with his family, slipped on a hat bearing his new team’s logo, shook hands with NBA commissioner Adam Silver, and walked off stage toward the ESPN cameras. That’s about when it stopped being business-as-usual at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.

As Allen was giving his first interview as an NBA player, he was surprised with a bear hug from his new club’s offensive star.

“When their leading scorer comes and congratulates you and welcomes you right when you put the hat on, it feels good,” Allen said of the surprise video-bomb from Jazz star Donovan Mitchell. “I already feel welcomed to Utah. I’m really excited to get to work.”

Not many draftees step off the stage and bump into their team’s star, but Mitchell was invited to be part of the NBATV crew’s in-arena and TV coverage. In fact, the Duke product’s next stop was a sit-down interview with his new teammate. 

Mitchell and Allen are hardly strangers, though. 

“I had some battles with (him) in college,” Allen said of Mitchell. “He’s a competitor, so we matched up a lot. I wanted to guard him, he wanted to guard me.”

He couldn’t recall whether his Blue Devils or Mitchell’s Cardinals came out ahead in those head-to-head battles — for the record, they actually split their eight ACC showdowns. But it doesn’t matter now: for the foreseeable future, the pair will play together instead.

“I’m really excited about playing with Donovan,” Allen added.

The Jazz were excited to get the Duke product, too. The 6-foot-5 guard possesses a fiery side and a slick jumper, a spot-up specialist who can also finish in the paint. Duke’s offense was elite when Allen played, and it’s easy to see why, with his combination of intensity, smarts and skills. 

“I was hoping he wouldn’t go too high (in the draft), so he’d be around for us,” Mitchell joked with the Barclays Center crowd.

Of course, Allen has question marks, too, as does every prospect who slips into the 20s on draft night. He’s not an elite athlete, and he’s old enough (almost 23!) that it’s fair to wonder how much better he’ll get. And after a stellar sophomore year, his stats dropped across the board in his junior and senior seasons as he was asked to take on more of the facilitation duties. His inability to dominate as an upperclassman is one reason why some stat models are bearish about him — like the one at FiveThirtyEight, that ranked him as the 45th best prospect by numbers alone, or the 25th best by combining the stat models with scout feedback.

But basketball isn’t played on a computer, and Allen is eager to show what he can do. He has already spent time thinking specifically about how his identity and catch-and-shoot or catch-and-go guy meshes with the Jazz’s X-and-O identity.

“With the space on the floor in the NBA and the space that the Jazz play with, with all the shooters around, there’s a lot of room to drive and attack. And I can do that.” Allen acknowledged that he had his best year at Duke playing off the ball, letting drivers collapse the defense and then find him “sliding to the spot (or) shaking up.” He’ll have those same opportunities playing next to Mitchell, starting point guard Ricky Rubio, and even Dante Exum if the Jazz manage to re-sign him.

“I think my best basketball is ahead of me,” the newest Jazz man said, “so I’m really excited about continuing to improve.”

The Jazz agree, as did other teams, evidently. The club’s general manager Dennis Lindsey told KSL’s Andy Larsen1 that some of their competitors were sniffing around the Duke product, both before and after the Jazz claimed his rights at No. 21.

“There were two teams, very good teams, that were trying to move ahead of us for Grayson’s rights,” Lindsey explained. “We had a really good offer right after we selected him, but we wanted to hold on.”

And hold on they did. Utah will now have exclusive rights to sign the former Blue Devil. His deal with the Jazz will start with two guaranteed seasons that will pay him around2 $2.0 and $2.2 million, followed by two team option years at $2.3 and $3.6 million. Then, if the Jazz choose to making him a qualifying offer, they can secure the rights to match any offer Allen receives as a restricted free agent in 2022. So the Jazz control Allen’s NBA destiny for the next six to seven years at minimum. 

For Allen, that means joining a group of players that are building toward something special. In addition to gushing about Mitchell, he acknowledged that he’s never played with the defensively dominant big man quite like All-NBA center Rudy Gobert. 

“I’m excited to be a part of a team that’s already on the ascent,” Allen concluded. “I hope to bring as much as I can to the Jazz… and win.”

A few more notes from the NBA Draft…

Loved and hated

Allen’s scoring ability and maximum effort earned him a lot of praise throughout his college career. At the same time, the guard drew some consternation after some in-the-moment intensity led to contact that some considered to be reckless or even dirty. For a while, it seemed as though he was known for tripping opponents as much as for sinking jumpers.

He has apologized for those incidents, but now professes that in a strange way, dealing with the ire of fans who saw him as a villain has helped prepare him to be mentally tough in adverse environments.

“I think it’s gotten me a lot more focused on the game and the love of the game and loving to play the game instead of all the outside external noise, cheers or boos, praise or criticism.” 

Star power

The larger-than-life Mitchell continues to dazzle, this time taking over the Big Apple as one of the stars of draft night and draft week.

The guard’s promotional appearances in Manhattan this week were packed, and afterward he had kids chasing him down the street behind his car. Granted, he grew up in nearby Westchester County, but it’s still rare to see a Jazz rookie command that kind of star attention.

Then on draft night, he was constantly on camera, interviewing players and playing games with them as they came off the stage. He is a natural at it, too, with enough personality to spill of the Barclays Center jumbotron. His only misstep of the night came when he accidentally introduced Memphis draftee Jaren Jackson as “the newest member of the Utah Jazz.” Oops. 

One and Done

The Jazz also owned the No. 52 pick, but opted to trade the pick to Houston instead of bring in another rookie for the 2018-19 campaign. Technically, they drafted Purdue’s Vincent Edwards on Houston’s behalf, ostensibly in exchange for some cold hard moolah.

Up Next

The Jazz will introduce Allen in Salt Lake City in the coming days and then Lindsey will turn his focus to free agency. Utah has three of its own free agents — the unrestricted Derrick Favors along with restricted free agent guards Exum and Raul Neto — and may also go shopping for rotational help. As it stands right now, Utah is over the salary cap, but will have tools such as the $8.5 million mid-level exception. They can renounce free agent rights, waive non-guaranteed salaries or trade players in an effort to get under the cap, but they will probably only go that route if they get traction with a major free agent.

They can legally begin negotiating with free agents (including their own) on July 1.


Dan Clayton

Dan Clayton

Dan covered Utah Jazz basketball for more than 10 years, including as a radio analyst for the team’s Spanish-language broadcasts from 2010 to 2014. He now lives and works in New York City, but contributes regularly to Salt City Hoops, FanRag and BBALLBreakdown.
Dan Clayton

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  1. rvalens2 says:

    As each of the guys I wanted the Jazz to draft dropped off the board, it became apparent to me who the Jazz organization was going to draft. I even called out his name before the pick was announced. He wasn’t my first, second, third, or even fourth choice, but the Jazz must have seen enough in him during his workout in Salt Lake to select him over everyone else who was left.

    I don’t know how Grayson Allen will turn out, but I have enough faith in Dennis Lindsey to take a “wait-and-see” attitude.

    Good luck Grayson and welcome to the Jazz.

  2. John Jenkins says:

    What I like is the Jazz are getting a shooter. I so think he plays hard and will fit in on the team. Donovan, Rudy, and Joe won’t allow anything else. If he has corrected his attitude then he is welcome. Seeing him stand next to Silver and Donovan I am fairly sure he is not 6’5″. His combine results were really good. He is saying the right things now. Hope he has grown up enough to accept how the Jazz play and his role on the team!

    • rvalens2 says:

      You’re right John. He looks to be the same height as Donovan Mitchell. When they were standing next to each other at the draft I could see no difference in height.

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