When the anticipation of the Jazz’s first-round pick in the NBA Draft barreled nearly three hours into the production and headlong toward reality on Thursday night, there was nothing that distinguished it from … well, standard.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that.
There was no unfolding drama, there were no moves made. There was no price paid, no jumping up to snag a secret target otherwise beyond the Jazz’s reach.
Instead, the draft’s first 10 selections morphed into the second 10, and then … the Jazz, with the 21st pick, took Grayson Allen, the 22-year-old Duke guard, widely known for his college antics and outbursts, who will be counted on — how’s this for standard? — to listen and learn and work in order to reward the team’s belief that he can help it win games.
After being taken by the Jazz, he said he was ready to do exactly that.
“I’m really excited,” he said, adding: “It fits perfectly. I’m just ready for the next step. This next step is what I’ve dreamed about.”
Good for him.
There will be no hasty grade issued here, no conclusive/premature evaluation, no insta-guess at nailing down what Dennis Lindsey accomplished. Responsible judgment will take time, we’ll give it … until summer league ends.
Allen is more mature than other draftees, at least in years lived, if not on-court behavior. He took big shots at Duke. He was an unselfish player who made sacrifices for his team. And he is athletic, as the Jazz discovered firsthand during his pre-draft workout. At the combine, he demonstrated a 40.5-inch vertical jump. At Duke, he was capable of hitting deep shots and maneuvering through traffic to get to the rim. He can create shots and score coming off of screens.
That’s what the Jazz need.
If Allen also was undisciplined at times and ultra-competitive to the point of screaming and stomping around, picking up technical fouls, losing his focus and his cool, we … uh, won’t get too tripped up on that.
Upon his selection, Allen said he was looking forward to playing alongside his former ACC rival Donovan Mitchell and playing for Duke alum Quin Snyder: “I’m excited to be on the same team. … [Snyder’s] a great coach. I watched the Jazz play a lot. They move the ball. … I’m just really happy.”
Best case, Allen will land in the transition from collegian to pro somewhere between Rudy Gobert and Donovan Mitchell, not in performances and results — let’s get real here — but in time frame to become useful. Mitchell’s rise was darn-near immediate, skidding over some early bumps to become the Jazz’s primary scorer in his rookie season. Gobert started slower, averaging nine minutes per game in his initial season, spending time in the G League, before making a steady climb in ensuing seasons to where he now exists.
I’ll never forget Gobert in that first season, after having been taken with the 27th pick in the draft, sitting in front of his postgame locker, virtually alone. Without saying a word, the look on his face, his body language did the shouting: “When you guys are done fiddle-faddling around, when you’re ready to win, just let me know. I’m here. Put me in.”
He was there, in an absent kind of way, although his pride, aggression and diligence shoved him in a positive direction in the seasons ahead.
Now, it is Allen’s turn to find his attitude and his place on a Jazz team that has its foundation built, but that still needs consistent scoring, accurate shooting. How soon Allen will provide that depends in large measure on him. The Jazz have proved they are as good as any team at refining talent, at scrubbing blemishes in a player’s game, recognizing strengths and making them stronger.
The Jazz will drop Allen in the lap of Johnnie Bryant or Alex Jensen or some other assistant to direct his progress, lather him up, starting tomorrow. It’s what they do.
That’s how and why Mitchell said a couple of weeks ago that, upon reflection, when he looked at film of himself in the first 10 games of last season and then looked at the final 10 games, he “didn’t even recognize” his previous self.
Allen said he looked forward to his own growth.
For their part, the Jazz don’t expect him to be Mitchell or to be Gobert. They simply expect him to properly work at applying himself to become whatever it is he can be.
What more could be expected? What more could be asked?
If Allen does that, and he still isn’t good enough to help the Jazz win, it won’t be his fault. It will be Lindsey’s for picking him.
Meanwhile, it’s kind of cool getting to know a new guy. A year ago, when Mitchell was selected, we learned among other things that he liked fire trucks and movies and video games, that his hero was his mom, that if he could handpick anyone to play him in a movie, he would select Kevin Hart, that his favorite midnight snack was Cap’n Crunch Berry Blast.
A couple of weeks later, in his first summer league game at the Huntsman Center, we saw him go for 23 points with five assists, showing the embryonic skills he would advance over his first season. We also became convinced that the nice things he said when he found out the Jazz moved up to get him were authentic: “I’m excited to be part of the Jazz organization. It’s a dream come true. This is incredible.”
It was incredible.
Now, we’ll see, bit by bit, what Allen has to offer.
Mitchell said he was stoked about his new teammate: “We got a good one in him.”
GORDON MONSON hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 97.5 FM and 1280 AM The Zone.