Can Grayson Allen, the biggest riddle of the NBA draft combine, flourish in the league?

CHICAGO – Who is Grayson Allen? Is he JJ Redick, the comparably sized fellow Duke alum who Allen often gets asked about? “I don’t think JJ jumped 40 inches,” Allen said, smiling, a nod to the 40 ½-inch vertical leap he registered at the NBA draft combine on Thursday. Added a team personnel executive: “They were both villains. But JJ was a two guard. I really think Grayson can play the point.”

Who is Grayson Allen? Is he Jimmer Fredette? Like Allen, the Jimmer was a decorated four-year college player, a lethal scorer who entered the NBA considered a dangerous 3-point shooter. “Night and day,” said the executive. “Jimmer was a great scorer, but he wasn’t a playmaker, he wasn’t athletic and he couldn’t defend. Grayson is a superior athlete — and there are more dimensions to his game.”

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Who is Grayson Allen? Sitting at a small table, a thick crowd of media members jockeying for position around him, Allen ticked off the skills that defined him. There’s shooting. “I know that can help a team,” Allen said. Allen shot 38 percent from 3-point range in his career at Duke, making them in a variety of ways: catch-and-shoots, dribble-ups, using an escape dribble. At Duke, there weren’t many ways Allen couldn’t make them.

There’s playmaking. The biggest benefit of returning to Duke for his senior season, Allen said, was getting to further his development as a point guard. Allen shared playmaking duties with Trevon Duval last season, and his assists spiked to a career-best 4.6 per game.

“I got to play with two bigs [Wendell Carter and Marvin Bagley III] that I could throw the ball up to,” Allen said. “I got used to throwing a lot of lobs, got used to finding shooters, finding cutters. Each year at Duke I have had to score in different spots. I think that has helped me so much. That makes me more ready for [the NBA]. I can adjust to any situation.”

Grayson Allen speaks with reporters at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. (AP)
Grayson Allen speaks with reporters at the NBA draft combine in Chicago. (AP)

There’s his maturity. Allen knows his reputation: college basketball bad boy who cheap-shot his way to a one-game suspension his junior season, whose dirty plays are immortalized in compilation videos on YouTube. Allen wants you to see beyond that.

“I want to let teams get to know me outside of what they see on the court,” Allen said. “Not just what kind of player they will see on the court, but what kind of person [I am] in the locker room.”

And that is?

“I’m more of a quiet guy, relaxed, calmer off the court,” Allen said. “I’m someone who really thinks the game through, who has an IQ about the game, who studies the game, who knows a lot more than just running and jumping. Who knows plays, rotations, offensive movement, all those different things.”

Five weeks before the NBA draft and Allen stands as one of its most intriguing prospects. Opinions on his draft range are, well, all over the place. One executive told Yahoo Sports that he saw Allen as a second-round pick. Another saw him in the 25-to-35 range. A third said if he had a chance to draft Allen in the late teens, he would take him.

Allen’s rise or fall won’t be based on anything he does at the combine. As the profile of the event has risen — ESPN blankets the combine with daily coverage, and nearly 200 media members are credentialed — its relevance has faded. Virtually none of the top players scrimmage. Deandre Ayton, a projected top-three pick, skipped the event entirely. Team interviews offer executives face time, but many admit the 30-minute drive-by’s don’t offer more than a surface look into the life of a prospect.

“Really, they should do away with the [scrimmages],” a Western Conference executive said. “Just do measurements, do the physicals and let the interviews be longer.”

Allen will interview this week, and he knows what will be a recurring topic. The well-publicized tripping incidents at Duke have NBA teams’ attention, and Allen will spend much of his time in a roomful of executives explaining them.

“You have to address it, for sure,” Allen said. “It’s something that comes from my competitiveness — competitiveness that was pointed in the wrong direction and went over the line. It’s obviously something I needed to work on and address. It’s something I’ve gotten a lot better with.”

Will teams care? “For the most part, teams don’t care about the [expletive] that goes on in college,” said an Eastern Conference GM. They care about shooting. Does Allen’s range extend beyond the 3-point line? They care about defense. Allen showcased elite athleticism this week, recording the second-best shuttle-run time (3.4 seconds) and one of the best lane-agility speeds (10.31 seconds) in combine history. Will that help him on the defensive end? “I’m not sure about that,” said the GM. “It’s definitely a question with him.”

And they care about leadership. Allen’s incidents suggest he has a problem controlling his emotions on the floor. One scout that studied him last season says he saw something different. “The thing that was most a revelation to me was watching him with their young guys,” said the scout. “He’s the only senior, he gathered guys together, kept guys going, patted guys on the back. He was a leader. He was an encourager. He was a good teammate.”

Allen will crisscross the country in the coming weeks, showcasing his talents on the floor and selling his intangibles off it. Who is Grayson Allen? More than half the NBA is eager to find out.

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