Excitement might’ve been high upon Grayson Allen’s arrival in Utah back in the Summer of 2018, but his rookie campaign was underwhelming. Still, he did produce an unforgettable, 40-point game for Utah Jazz fans while on the roster.
Remember when the Utah Jazz nabbed Grayson Allen out of Duke with the 21st pick in the 2018 NBA Draft? By no means was he the “sexiest” of first-round picks, but seeing as how Dennis Lindsey and Justin Zanik had struck gold with Donovan Mitchell the year prior, hopes were high.
According to most NBA draft pundits, the move was of the “meh” variety. In spite of having remained at Duke for four years under Mike Krzyzewski’s tutelage, Allen’s apparent obsession with tripping opponents called into question his on-court maturity. He was, however, a bonafide NBA athlete with a 40-inch vertical, consistent shooting touch and plenty of defensive hustle.
In theory, the fit was there; in real life, it wasn’t.
Come the end of the 2018-2019 season, Allen’s numbers were undeniably pedestrian. Not only did he only appear in 38 games for the Jazz, but with Mitchell having set expectations for rookies unfairly high in Salt Lake City, it felt like Allen was destined to fail — and he did: 5.6 points, 0.7 assists, 0.6 rebounds and 0.2 steals per game in the 10.9 minutes given him by Quin Snyder.
There was one shining moment, however …
On April 10, during the regular-season finale against the Los Angeles Clippers, with Rudy Gobert and Mitchell resting for the playoffs, Allen unexpectedly exploded for 40 points in 40 minutes. To get there, he splashed home five three-point attempts and hit 13 of 14 free throws.
Just to put things in perspective, check these dudes’ career-highs in the scoring column …
And if his scoring performance wasn’t already impressive enough, just for kicks and giggles, he also collected four assists, seven rebounds, a block and a steal — all this with only a single foul.
Is Allen capable of duplicating this kind of performance?
With the sun, moon, stars and ocean tides moving in perfect harmony with the Mayan calendar, yes — he’s done it once, he can do it again. It’s not likely, though. In fact, since his astounding outing with the Jazz, Allen’s highest-scoring performance is 15 points — not a promising look.
But for that one night, Allen’s game was on par with the best and brightest of the NBA’s up-and-coming future — Trae Young and Mitchell. Seriously, apart from Allen, the last two first-year talents to turn in 40-point performances were those guys — not bad company at all, peeps.
Taking an even deeper dive into the accomplishment, since the 1946-1947 NBA season, only 68 rookies have broken the 40-point barrier during their first year in the league. Of those 68 rookies, 33 have been or (likely) will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Additionally, 12 more players were selected to at least one All-Star team during their careers.
As you well know by now, though, Allen’s no longer with the Jazz franchise. On July 6, 2019, the Memphis Grizzlies — along with Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, the draft rights to Darius Bazley and a future, protected first-round pick from the Jazz — acquired Allen from Utah in exchange for Mike Conley. Fortunately, an injury-ridden Allen has seen his play improve in Memphis.
Ironically, however, Conley — the “prized” point guard for whom Allen was sent to Memphis in the first place — shares the exact same career-high scoring total with him: 40 points. The only difference? It took Conley and his H-O-R-S-E skills 12 years in the NBA to make it happen.
In spite of the Grizzlies having exercised their third-year option on Allen for the 2020-2021 NBA season, if I were a betting man, I’d go all-in on the former Duke standout soon taking his talents overseas. No matter what happens, though, his 40-point night will forever be the stuff of legends.