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Grayson Allen’s Evolution Into A Tertiary Playmaker For The Milwaukee Bucks


Мар 29, 2023

Grayson Allen has never drawn a comparison to any of the elite playmakers in the NBA game. Besides dirty fouls at Duke (a reputation that now inaccurately precedes him), he’s best known for his outside shooting. What if I told you his game has expanded to include tertiary on-ball playmaking with the Milwaukee Bucks this season?

Allen’s time as a one-trick pony may be behind him, as his game has evolved to consist of some off-the-bounce flair that includes getting deep into the paint and either finishing at the hoop or creating open shots for his teammates.

His growth hasn’t produced eye-popping numbers in the box score—he’s only averaging 2.3 assists per game—but the impact is much more profound than the numbers suggest.

He loves to assault the rim after manipulating the defense with the threat of his three-point shot. He’s made over 40 percent of his threes since landing in Milwaukee two seasons ago and weaponizes that advantage.

Allen catches the initial dribble handoff with Brook Lopez and can pull the trigger from deep. Instead, he tosses it back to the big man and uses the seven-footer’s massive frame to create a slight advantage heading toward the bucket. Coby White has to go over the screen, which allows Allen to get slightly ahead of him, use his body to create just enough separation, and finish the lefty layup off the glass.

He’s averaging a modest 5.5 drives per game, but that’s up from 4.4 a year ago and represents his career high. He’s also much more productive on those increased attacks; finishing a higher percentage at the rim, drawing shooting fouls more often, racking up more assists, and creating secondary assists at a higher rate as well.

When Allen catches the bounce pass from Lopez, he takes a lateral dribble to his left as if he will pull up from behind the arc. Pascal Siakam hops to contest the shot, but Allen streaks toward the bucket in the opening he just created for himself. He shows some nice in-the-air flair, hanging just long enough to finish the layup through traffic.

Nobody is going to confuse Allen’s finishing ability with Giannis Antetokoumpo’s. His 63 percent success rate within four feet of the hoop is about league average for wings, according to Cleaning the Glass. Even on the shots he does make, his lack of explosiveness on the ground and short wingspan prevent him from creating a comfortable gap between him and the defender.

Again, he exploits the defender’s priority to contest his three-point shot by hitting him with the slightest of fakes and creating a driving lane that didn’t exist originally. With his man on his back hip and the help defender stepping up, Allen has to get funky with his finish. He opts for a loooonnngg euro-step that gives him just enough space to complete the play.

Due to his lack of elite finishing ability, help defenses often force him to kick the ball out to a teammate. This is the area where he’s shown the most growth.

After never creating more than 258 assist points in a season through the first four years of his career, he’s generated 400 assists points and counting in 2022-23. His dribble penetration is most likely to result in a three-pointer for a teammate (Note: The highest number of his assists go to Antetokounmpo, but most of those are cheapies where Antetokounmpo receives the pass, attacks off the bounce, and scores). Allen has created 246 assist points in threes alone.

Allen attacks the unguarded basket on the secondary break in the video above. He’s able to beat his man just enough to suck in the weakside help and attract two defenders at point-blank range. He then tosses the ball to the opposite corner, where the help just came from, and creates a wide-open three for Jevon Carter.

It’s not the most complex play in the world, but neither he nor the Bucks need it to be. The Bucks will run their offense through Anetokounmpo, Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday. Allen won’t be required to carry them through any stretch, however, he can make plays in secondary and tertiary situations. Sometimes, less is more.

With the fourth quarter winding down to the halfway mark in the Bucks’ marquee matchup against the Phoenix Suns, Allen found himself in an ideal position to help his team. He takes the dribble handoff from Lopez and veers to the left wing as if to fire a three-pointer. His defender shadows his path before Allen jets toward the paint with a newfound edge. This engages Lopez’s defender before the rock finds the open big man at the top of the key. Yak Yak!

Even if his passes don’t lead directly to a bucket for the Bucks, they are contributing to positive results. He’s second on the team in both secondary assists and potential assists.

Allen’s role in the regular season is solidified. He’s started the second-most games of anyone on the Bucks this season and will hold that spot for the final two weeks. What happens after that is what he’s most concerned about.

He played well against the Chicago Bulls in the first-round of last year’s playoffs, but fell apart against the Boston Celtics. Part of that—his lack of size and defensive abilities—is out of his control. However, he can make himself a more effective offensive player by expanding his game as he’s done this year.

With Pat Connaughton struggling to make shots and Jae Crowder battling a nagging injury and looking like a guy who hasn’t played all year, there could be a path to significant postseason minutes for Allen. The key is to trust the evolution he’s made this season without trying to do too much. Simple, yet effective.

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