Hawks draft prospect watch: Grayson Allen, Duke

Grayson Allen

College: Duke

Hometown: Jacksonville, Fla.

Class: Senior

Height/weight: 6-foot-5, 205 (listed)

Age: 22 (Oct. 8,1995)

ESPN draft projection : 35th

NEW YORK—The Hawks could have as many as three first-round picks in the 2018 draft. Their own pick almost certainly will be in the lottery. Barring epic collapses by the Rockets and Timberwolves, the Hawks also will own the lottery-protected, first-round picks for those two teams via trades. This is the fifth of my occasional reports on prospects expected to be selected in the first round of the draft.

Previous entries

Duke has five players who could be selected in the first round of this year’s NBA draft. Wendell Carter Jr. and Marvin Bagley III both are expected to be selected in the lottery if they declare for the draft. I was at Madison Square Garden on Saturday to get a first-hand look at Duke’s future NBA players against St. John’s.

Allen had a poor shooting game during Duke’s loss to St. John’s: 1-for-7, including 1-for-4 on 3-pointers. He made a 3-pointer to pull the Blue Devils within 77-76 with 36 seconds to go but missed two clean looks to tie in the final 24 seconds.

It was an atypical game for Allen, whose NBA potential centers on his shooting ability. For the season, Allen has posted a 54.0 effective field-goal percentage, including 38.2 percent shooting on 3-pointers (55 for 144). During his time at Duke, Allen has been an accurate, high-volume shooter: 53.4 eFG% on 14.4 shots per 40 minutes, including 38.5 percent shooting on 7.4 3-point shots per 40 minutes.

Allen has had good play-making production as a wing (he often serves as the primary ball-handler for Duke). His 19.7 assist rate this season is the lowest since his freshman season in large part because Trevon Duval has assisted on 30.4 percent of his possessions. Allen’s assist rate this season still is the best among the Atlantic Coast Conference’s wing prospects, according to Kenpom.com, and Allen’s turnover-to-assist ratio per 40 minutes has improved each season despite his high usage rate.

A big knock against Allen during his first three seasons was his relatively low free-throw rate and it’s gotten even worse this season (28.5 percent, after it was at least 44.5 over his first three years). That’s despite Allen attempting fewer 3-pointers per 100 possessions this season (10.3) than last season (12.6). One-dimensional shooters don’t usually last long in the NBA, especially if they are weak defensively, so Allen will have to diversify his offensive game.

Allen may need some work to become a competent NBA defender but it’s possible. He’s a good athlete -- recall his impressive dunking display at a McDonald’s All-American event as a high school senior. From what I saw during the St. John’s game, Allen’s leaping ability is much better than his lateral quickness but I wouldn’t say he’s slow-footed.

Allen is listed at 205 pounds and I buy it. He’s got good definition is his upper body and appeared solid while running through screens against St. John’s. But his position versatility may be limited because he lacks the size to defend the NBA’s bigger wings.

It’s possible that Allen will be the only collegiate senior to be selected in the first round of the draft. That makes him easier for NBA teams to judge because he has a long track record of playing against top NCAA competition (Allen played at least 34 games in each of his first three seasons). But it also means Allen may not have much more room for development.

Even if Allen doesn’t get much better, he’s already got one valuable NBA-ready skill: shooting. His usage rate and percentage of shots taken have dropped dramatically in his senior year as fellow NBA prospects Bagley, Carter and Duval gobble up possessions. But Allen's shooting efficiency remains as high as ever.

Allen is projected to be drafted late in the first round (where the Hawks are on track to own picks from the Timberwolves and Rockets) or early in the second round (where the Hawks will have their own pick). The Hawks already have three young wings on the roster: Taurean Prince, Tyler Dorsey and two-way player Andrew White in the G-League. There’s also the possibility the Hawks will select top wing prospect Luka Doncic in the lottery.

With so many wing prospects already in the fold, plus veteran Kent Bazemore, my guess is the Hawks won’t have much interest in Allen. But a lot could happen between now and the draft. If the Hawks are looking for another good shooting prospect Allen figures to be the best one available later in the draft.

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About the Author

Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham
Michael Cunningham has covered the Hawks and other beats for the AJC since 2010.