Most to Prove No. 2: Jarrett Allen
Jarrett Allen has been a phenomenal addition for the Cleveland Cavaliers. They snuck into the James Harden deal to add him despite a glut of centers already on the roster, then paid him on a five-year deal that has proven to be a massive underpay. He’s been the anchor of a top-tier defense in each of the past two seasons.
The problem is not with Allen, but with the modern NBA. It’s possible, but difficult, to field a high-level offense with two non-shooters on the court. With young defensive phenom Evan Mobley playing alongside Allen the Cavaliers have to build lineups with shooting at the other three spots to have a chance.
To their credit they have largely done that; their offensive rating of 116.1 last season was ninth in the league. Yet they don’t have a lot of flexibility in building lineups; they essentially have to play shooters at the other three positions to survive. Come the playoffs, as defenses get even tighter, the problems only increase.
It’s possible that this pairing can still work, that the defensive upside is so great that having Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt provides the proper balance. It’s also possible that trading Allen for a forward unlocks a higher offensive ceiling without costing them as much on defense. Allen has to play at an elite level all season and in the playoffs to prove his value to the Cavs.