Cavs’ Jarrett Allen should be able to build on great defensive season

Cleveland Cavaliers big Jarrett Allen greets teammates before a game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
Cleveland Cavaliers big Jarrett Allen greets teammates before a game. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images) /

This season was a career year for Jarrett Allen, who, like Darius Garland, represented the Cleveland Cavaliers with Team LeBron in the All-Star Game this go-round.

Allen had career-highs in points and rebounds per outing with 16.1 and 10.8, respectively, and among qualified players, Allen was second in field goal percentage at 67.7 percent, per Basketball Reference.

Now, in fairness, the vast majority of Allen’s shot attempts were in the restricted area, as has been the case throughout his career thus far, dating back to his time with the Brooklyn Nets. Those constituted his first three-plus seasons, after which Allen was traded to the Cavaliers early in the 2020-21 campaign.

Before this latest 2021-22 season for Cleveland, Allen was signed to a new five-year, $100 million deal, and plenty of fans, and seemingly a number of Cavaliers fans, too, were skeptical of that move. That was with other bigs in mind, and with the teams’ selection of Evan Mobley, for instance.

Even still, it was a move that appeared to be the right call, as Allen was still a very young player that looked like he could be a core player looking onward, and Allen was one of the bright spots for the team since his trade arrival.

As we touched on, Allen played very well this season, and more than warranted his past offseason deal, and looks to be one of the teams’ best and most important players. His offensive growth as a finisher, burgeoning post-up game and touch on hooks, in particular, was often on display as he stepped his game up offensively.

It was awesome to see Allen’s work on the defensive end for much of this season, too, though, where he really solidified himself as one of the pillars for the Cavaliers on that end.

The team stumbled in post-All-Star break play, and did not have close to their defensive rating they had pre-All-Star, as post-All-Star, that was 24th, whereas pre-All-Star, it was fourth. But plenty of that I thought had to do with Allen’s fractured finger causing him to miss most of March, and all of April prior to Cleveland’s second play-in loss to the Atlanta Hawks. And Dean Wade’s partial meniscus for some of that time didn’t help, either.

Regardless, it was apparent that Allen was such a difference-maker, and even more so in tandem with Evan Mobley on defense, and next season, I do think Allen should be able to build on that.

Allen should be able to build on his great defensive season in 2021-22 for the Cavs in this next season to come.

The Cavaliers’ post-All-Star break slide didn’t help the overall splits, however, when healthy, Allen was often doing a terrific job as the teams’ defensive anchor, seemingly key communicator on that end, and as again, a shot alterer/rim protector.

He had 1.3 blocks per contest, which was virtually at his career average of 1.4, but he and Mobley were near the league leaders in contested shots per game for most of the year, and when they were often together, the team was typically stout on defense. When Allen went down in early March, that wasn’t what played out nearly enough, clearly.

For much of the season, though, when he was regularly involved, Allen was the heartbeat of the Cavaliers defense. He was fifth in contested shots per game, per’s hustle data (Mobley was third), and when he was in there manning the 5 for extended stretches, it largely was a determining factor in Cleveland’s success making it tough on drivers, and for interior threats to be efficient.

Allen was a crucial part, and especially with Mobley, too, in why the Cavs during the regular season conceding the lowest field goal percentage in the restricted area at 60.5 percent, per’s shot tracking data.

Furthermore, with Allen, it was telling that when he was on the floor this season, the Cavaliers held opponents to 4.2 less points per 100 possessions, which placed in the 81st percentile defensively, per Cleaning The Glass. Opponents’ effective field goal shooting was 2.4 percent worse when Allen was in for the Cavs, too, which placed in the 85th percentile in that metric, per Cleaning The Glass.

Point being, it was evident that throughout much of the season, Allen’s efforts on the defensive end as the teams’ heartbeat there as a crucial rim protector, backline communicator for others, and his shot altering was invaluable.

Also, I thought he made noticeable progress in being able to be more respectable as a switchable big at times onto perimeter players and pull-up shooting threats. I’m not giving him a switch big label yet, but he demonstrated growth with his fluidity in that area, and that helped him deter some shots, and when the weak side rotators are able to sort it out, it’s meaningful that Allen has gotten better in that area, moving forward.

He’s still only 24, too, so I’d think he’ll get better in coming years in that area, as he and the team/Mobley and others hopefully continue to gel.

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Anyway, while the end of the season didn’t necessarily illuminate it for him individually with the injury absence, this season was a career year for Allen. And he can definitely build on this one defensively, where he had likely his most impactful year yet through five seasons, too.