We’ve reached the point in time where it is fair to wonder just how much Grayson Allen is going to be contributing to the Blue Devils the rest of the season.
Wednesday was his worst game of the season, and it wasn’t even close. He played just 12 minutes, he missed all four of the shots that the took and he went scoreless. He also picked up a technical foul for slamming the ball on the floor.
That happened in Duke’s opening game in the ACC tournament — in a year where Allen was the preseason National Player of the Year, no less — and it capped a streak where Allen had averaged just 8.0 points in the six games that he had played in since putting up 25 points in a win over North Carolina in Cameron Indoor Stadium. He shot 26.4 percent from the floor in those games and just 9-for-34, or 26.5 percent, from three.
“When you don’t practice at the speed and with the reps that you normally do,” Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said after Duke’s 79-72 win over Clemson,” it affects your performance. And it has with him.”
“I think the injury is a huge part of it because he has not been able to really go after it in practice, and he’s lost his timing, his rhythm. Even today, what did he take? He took four shots, but the two threes he took were right on target, but they were a little bit short. We got to get him going.”
The injury that Coach K is referring to? An ankle injury that he hasn’t been able to shake, one that has kept him out of practice, out of rhythm and sapped him of the explosiveness that made him so hard to guard. In his stead, Frank Jackson has now started four straight games and, after dropping 20 points against Clemson, is averaging 18.3 points in that stretch.
But Duke is just 2-2 in those four games. They’ve gone just 5-3 since Allen’s slump started after winning seven straight games.
It begs the question: Why is Grayson playing right now? Were those 12 minutes he played today really worth it? The Blue Devils play again tomorrow against Louisville, and if they win that, they play again the next day against North Carolina. If Allen’s ankle isn’t healthy, if he’s too banged up to practice, does it make sense to run him out in back-to-back days in Brooklyn when A) Frank Jackson is out here balling and B) Duke has more important things to play for, like Final Fours and national titles?
In other words, why would you play Allen at less than 100% now when he can take this time to get healthy for the Big Dance?
He needs to get into a rhythm, yes, but a healthy Grayson trying to find his stroke is better than an injured Grayson that is half the player he can be.