MILWAUKEE — Because of his trademark throwback Afro hairstyle, Nets rookie center Jarrett Allen is known to many as “the ’Fro.” But given his prolific dunking ability, as his future unfolds, a better moniker might be “the ’Fro Down.’’
The No. 22 overall draft pick out of Texas last June has proved to be a steal and has shown the potential to become a big-time scorer. The 19-year-old Allen started his 28th straight game Thursday at BMO Harris Bradley Center and had 10 rebounds and five blocks in the Nets’ 119-111 win over the playoff-bound Bucks.
Since joining the first unit, Allen has averaged 10.9 points per game, shot 62.0 percent and contributed 6.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Allen is shooting 58.7 percent overall, which leads all rookies. His team-high 112 dunks is tied for 13th in the NBA, and his 63.7 percent shooting since Jan. 1 is second in the league behind only the Clippers’ Montrezl Harrell among players with at least 200 shot attempts.
“I think he can be a really good scorer, and I think his shooting is going to improve because he improved his free- throw shooting,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “It doesn’t have to be three-point shooting. He can own the elbows, he could be off the block a little bit. He’s made a few corner threes in games. He’s capable, and I think if you give him that challenge, he’s going to become a really good shooter.”
Early in the season, Allen wasn’t finishing very well around the rim. Assistant coach Bret Brielmaier told him to forget the floaters and layups and focus on dunking the ball. Allen has followed that advice with often spectacular results.
“That’s what my role has been, just trying to be the roll man and try to finish everything,” he said. “As you can see, I’ve expanded on that, just literally dunking everything almost.”
Despite his shooting numbers around the rim, including 70.0 percent on shots in the restricted area since Jan. 1, Allen is convinced he can do even better. “I’m going to have a good future, but I know I have to put the work in to get even better,” he said. “It’s a goal for me to have the best numbers around the rim. I look back, and it’s like, ‘Man, I need to make that shot.’
“I’m definitely not satisfied. I feel it could be higher personally.”
Before the draft, Atkinson said some mistakenly interpreted Allen’s quiet demeanor as a sign of softness. Although Allen needs to gain strength in the offseason, his aggressive play is reflected by 74 blocked shots, the most by an NBA teenager since Andre Drummond (95) and Anthony Davis (87) in 2012-13.
“Jarrett is intelligent, humble, but yet he has a little bit of a chip on his shoulder,” Atkinson said. “You challenge him, he seems to rise to the occasion.”
Allen understood the perception and has proved it wrong. “I’d say my confidence has gone up a lot,” he said. “Once people figure out they belong in the league and they know they can play with everybody, you can tell their confidence starts to grow, and that’s what happened with me.”
Atkinson benched Allen late in a recent win at Miami when both teams went small, and he handled it with maturity. “I was fine with it,” Allen said. “I trust Kenny to make the best decision for the team. That’s why I’m here is so we can win. The Miami game showed that, but in my future, I think he’s going to want to put me out there at the end.”