SALT LAKE CITY — Inside the Zions Bank Basketball Center Monday morning was arguably the most competitive Utah Jazz pre-draft workout of this offseason.
There was All-Pac-12 First Team guard Aaron Holiday, Villanova’s Consensus National Player of the Year Jalen Bruson, Creighton’s Big East Defensive Player of the Year Khyri Thomas, San Diego State’s Malik Pope and former Louisville big Ray Spalding all in attendance.
But perhaps the biggest star was four-year Duke guard Grayson Allen. The Mike Krzyzewski product lauded the workout as going “really well.”
“We competed,” Allen said. “Everyone who came here competed, we played really hard and it’s a lot of fun when guys bring energy like that.”
Four of the six Jazz participants are projected first-rounders in the June 21 NBA Draft, where Utah will pick at No. 21 and No. 52. That’s extremely rare in Salt Lake City to bring in this caliber of prospects all at once.
“When I had the opportunity to get all these guys in, I said ‘yeah, we’ve got to go for it,’” said Walt Perrin, Utah’s VP of Player Personnel. “You’ve got four guys in this workout who we’re realistically looking at 21 so it helps us with the piece of the puzzle.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten this many guys in for whatever particular pick we have so I don’t pat myself on the back but I will this time.”
Although Allen enjoyed a solid college career at Duke, where he also joined Jazz coach Quin Snyder as one of three four-time All-ACC Academic honorees, many questions still linger about his character.
Allen averaged 15.5 points, 4.6 assists and 3.3 rebounds his senior season but has had multiple tripping incidents where he developed a reputation for dirty play.
“I play with competitiveness and emotion for sure and teams love that,” Allen said. “The negative side of that is obviously I took it too far in school but I’m not getting rid of it, it’s not going anywhere, I just learn to play with it and channel it but teams love that. You want a guy who competes.”
In fact, one of Allen’s bad habits involved an incident with Utah Jazz star Donovan Mitchell during his sophomore year at Louisville. After the two got tangled up and fell to the floor during a Jan. 14, 2017 game where Louisville topped Duke 78-69, Mitchell slyly slapped Allen in the face on his way up from the floor.
That competitive history is now in the rearview mirror, though, as Allen was heavily invested in Mitchell’s All-Rookie campaign in Utah.
“He was a great player. It was really interesting,” Allen recalled. “The first year we played them, on our scouting report all we had on film of him was two crazy dunks that he had during the year and it was like, ‘This guy is an athlete. Don’t let him get a tip dunk to get to the rim.' But then the following year we got a long list of clips. This guy was coming off of ball screens pulling up. He’s shooting the 3, he’s still got that athleticism getting to the rim and he was a really good defender for them.
“He made so much improvement just from one year to the next in college and then obviously a ton more improvement going into this year. Had an incredible rookie year,” he described. “I watched a lot of him this year just because of the success that he had and how well he’s been able to play on the court.”
Allen sees himself playing either the one or two spot in the NBA.3 comments on this story
He posted the top lane agility time at 10.31 seconds during the 2018 NBA Draft Combine in Chicago and is sneakily athletic with a 40.5 max vertical leap, which also tested in the top 10.
“I still think my best basketball is playing off the ball,” Allen said. “If I was here playing off of Donovan Mitchell, giving him a lot of space, being a cutter, a shooter and just a guy that plays off of him but I could handle the ball and initiate the offense, too, because I’ve gotten comfortable doing it the last two years.”