Coming into the beginning of the season, the Cleveland Cavaliers were set to have a notable absence: that being big man Jarrett Allen.
Allen was limited for most of training camp and missed all of Cleveland's preseason action because of a bone bruise in his ankle. Allen was sidelined for Cleveland's first six games of the 2023-24 campaign, and his minutes were still restricted, to some extent, when he did come back.
Allen looks to be at near full-capacity now, though, or at least it seems that way as he's gotten more comfortable and his movement and conditioning have gotten back to up to speed.
There have still been some stretches where he's had trouble finding his way in set situations offensively, and there have been off nights on occasion, but as the season is nearing its quarter-mark, Allen is starting to find his way. On the season, Allen has posted averages of 13.5 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per outing, and in his last 10 appearances, has averaged 14.0 points, 7.8 boards and 1.2 blocks.
So, how has Allen looked so far for the Cavaliers this season?
Early on, as was aforementioned, Allen had some bumps along the way, but he looks to be rounding back into form for Cleveland. His interior defense, interior presence on both ends and urgency in keeping plays alive has made a difference for the Cavaliers as he's settled in, and that should continue to trend upward as he gets more comfortable on the floor.
Defensively, while there were struggle at times in his initial games back in the lineup, Allen's presence on that end has been more of a constant in the recent batch of contests. And while he get his production, Allen's efforts and toughness did result in Nikola Jokic getting in foul trouble from offensive fouls and eventually an early ejection in Cleveland's big win over the Denver Nuggets on Nov. 19. Allen had a plus-42 plus-minus in that big W for the Cavaliers as well.
Allen also played a significant role in Joel Embiid's off shooting night from the field in an overtime win at the Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 21. Embiid would register his share of production from the free throw line, which is inevitable with how he finds his way there, but Allen did fare pretty well overall, and offensively, Allen had a season-high 26 points and 13 rebounds in that outing.
His rebounding splits have decreased some last season, and for the Cavs overall, they have to clean some things up on the defensive glass. However, when one factors in Evan Mobley's growth there, and with Max Strus having a career-best 5.7 boards per game thus far, it's not as if Allen being back hasn't helped in that area, and Allen has given Cleveland a boost on the offensive glass.
In addition to the typical interior plays Allen provides as a roller, rim deterrent/interior eraser on defense and his hustle contributions, as he's regained his footing more of late, Allen's connective passing has aided others.
There have been some impressive big-to-big plays between him and Evan Mobley, and Allen's chemistry with Max Strus has gotten better, whether it's from his handoffs, occasionally hitting Strus on cuts or finding him on the outside to counter help. Although Allen is not quite the passer Mobley can be, Allen has demonstrated growth in that aspect of his game, and despite there being an uptick in turnovers, his assist splits have increased, too, and his awareness as a ball-mover has improved.
Generally, even with it being reasonable to have some concern about the Cavaliers as a group right now, and for some to be skeptical about Allen's possible impact in the playoffs, he's still very meaningful for this Cavs team.
Allen's starting to find his groove on both ends of the floor with pretty solid play, and as he and the team head into December, that's been encouraging to watch.