Don’t look now, but the Duke is as healthy as it’s been all season, and the Blue Devils are coming off five straight wins.
A key development for Duke has been Grayson Allen’s evolution as a playmaker. There are a lot of good shooters in college basketball, but few can create their own high-percentage look off of the dribble at any time. Allen is one of those special players.
However valuable that skill may be, Allen is perhaps even better served on this Duke team finding ways to create shots for others.
Duke has a surplus of talent — The team is littered with future NBA players, but the one thing missing in Mike Krzyzewski’s tool belt is a pure point guard. There is no Chris Duhon or Tyus Jones on this season’s roster.
A team can survive on offense even without a point guard as long as it has someone who can create for others off the bounce. Coaches love to see passing, but it’s imperative to have a player — regardless of position — bend and move a defense. That’s precisely what Allen has given the Blue Devils this season.
Allen averages four assists per game (No. 11 in the ACC), and when he’s on the floor, he assists on 22.7 percent of Duke’s made field goals, according to KenPom.com. Both of those numbers are tops on Duke’s team this season and are career highs for Allen.
No player has operated more pick-and-rolls for Duke this season than Allen. He has run a total of 106 possessions in that type of action. The junior has shot 51.4 percent out of the pick-and-roll, per Synergy Sports. More importantly, though: He has been an excellent passer. According to Synergy, Duke has scored 1.02 points per possession when Allen has been the passer in pick-and-rolls.
Allen ranks No. 1 in the ACC in offensive efficiency when passing the ball to a teammate rolling to the basket: 1.64 points per possession on 87.5 percent shooting. That’s not much of a surprise as Duke can space the floor with four perimeter players at all times. Good luck defending a spread pick-and-roll while also accounting for Luke Kennard and Jayson Tatum.
Duke has lost just once when Allen has recorded four or more assists; the Devils are 8-1 in those contests. That includes a victory last month over Boston College, when Allen handed out a career high 11 assists.
The Florida native’s playmaking chops have improved even more in conference play. Against ACC foes, Allen has assisted on greater than 26 percent of his teammates’ made field goals while on the floor. During this recent five-game winning streak, Duke has made 132 field goals — 20 of which were assisted by Allen. Kennard is the best catch-and-shoot player in college basketball, and a big part of his success is playing off of Allen.
The Blue Devils are gearing up for a stretch run that could include multiple championships. First things first, though: Duke will face one of the biggest obstacles remaining on its regular-season slate Wednesday night when it travels to Charlottesville for a matchup with Virginia.
Coach K will need Allen to be on his game — creating penetration and defensive rotations — to help puncture a Cavaliers defense that rates third nationally in points allowed per 100 possessions.