Kragthorpe: Jazz fans will eventually love the polarizing Grayson Allen

Duke's Grayson Allen celebrates as he heads off the court following a regional semifinal game against Syracuse in the NCAA men's college basketball tournament Friday, March 23, 2018, in Omaha, Neb. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

In politics, it is labeled flip-flopping.

In sports, it is just what fans do.

In five minutes Thursday night, Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer J. Cox summarized the Utah slice of the 2018 NBA draft in the best way any Jazz devotee possibly could. In consecutive tweets, Cox campaigned against his favorite team’s pick of Duke guard Grayson Allen – and then welcomed him in capital letters.

That’s how this stuff works, right?

You will love Grayson Allen, because you love Joe Ingles and Jae Crowder and you once loved Matt Harpring. Maybe none of those guys arrived with anything resembling Allen’s reputation as a dirty player, but they’re exactly the kind of player whom fans like when he’s on their team and dislike when he’s playing against them.

I’ll tolerate Allen, because of his shooting skills and athletic ability, as he demonstrated in the pre-draft process. And I have no doubt that Jazz fans eventually will embrace him, as former Atlantic Coast Conference rival Donovan Mitchell personally did in Brooklyn, interrupting ESPN’s interview with Allen to give him a hug.

That’s what Cox virtually did as well, while jabbing himself for his wildly varying views of Allen. As the No. 21 pick approached, Cox tweeted, “Please don’t take Grayson Allen” and repeated that sentence seven times.

Naturally, when the Jazz defied the executive order, Cox responded, “I LOVE GRAYSON ALLEN SO MUCH!”


This would have been the perfect occasion for the Jazz to stage a draft party, for the sake of gauging the response to Allen. Social media suggests his selection would have been booed at a Gordon Hayward level – in the 2010 draft, I mean, not his anticipated visit with Boston next season.

Allen will have to win over some percentage of Jazz fans; that’s understandable. I’m convinced he’ll do it, and so is he.

“I think it’ll happen right away,” he said in a video conference with the Utah media, citing his “love” and “passion” for basketball that Utahns have always valued.

I wanted improved shooting so much for this team that I’ll accept everything else Allen brings. Actually, if it is properly channeled, the Jazz can use some more Duke attitude. That’s why I liked J.J. Redick in 2006, when he went just ahead of Jazz draftee Ronnie Brewer, and I have full confidence that the Jazz culture sufficiently will rein in Allen’s antics.

“We got a good one,” Mitchell said during that ESPN interview of Allen. Mitchell’s endorsement is meaningful, considering Allen’s behavior in Duke-Louisville meetings.

In advance of the Jazz’s draft, I’d targeted Maryland guard Kevin Huerter, who went to Atlanta two picks before Allen. My No. 2 choice in their range was UCLA guard Aaron Holiday, and I’ll accept the Jazz’s judgment that Allen outperformed him in a recent workout that also included top-40 picks Jalen Brunson and Khyri Thomas, a good wing defender.

I’ll also trust that Jazz coach Quin Snyder got honest answers about Allen from Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, among other sources, as a former Blue Devils player and coach. Snyder’s staff will make Allen an even better shooter, and he’ll blend into a team that’s getting tougher all the time.

That’s a good trait, as the Jazz compete in the Western Conference. With the 2018 draft’s top four picks coming to the West, the Jazz must deal with improving teams while chasing the league’s elite franchises. As a four-year college player, Allen will help the Jazz right away, as much as anyone in their draft slot could do.

And if he plays well enough to bug opposing players and fans, that will be a good sign. That’s what Ingles and Crowder do, making them all the more endearing around here. With the Jazz, Allen will have good role models, in multiple ways.