On Tuesday, Duke guard Grayson Allen announced his decision to once again forgo the NBA draft and return to Durham.
Allen is coming off a junior year in which he regressed in nearly every major offensive statistical category as well as his overall win shares per 40 minutes; he also firmly established himself as one of the dirtiest players in college basketball. With a national title already on his resume, his final go-round at Duke will give him a shot at regaining his 2016 form and salvaging his on-court reputation.
After breaking out for 16 points in the 2015 national championship against Wisconsin as an otherwise unknown reserve, Allen segued his title-game success into a dominant sophomore campaign in 2016. As the spearhead of the Blue Devils’ offense, Allen put up 21.6 points per game, enough to earn second-team All-America honors at the end of the season. After Allen elected to spurn the NBA and return to Duke, the general consensus heading into the 2017 season was that the Blue Devils would end up as one of the better teams in the nation, and that Allen would be a front-runner for national player of the year.
This proved true in spurts, but like Duke, Allen was wildly inconsistent—in ACC play, he scored at least 19 points in four straight games, then followed it with a five-game stretch in which he failed to crack 11 points once. He was tripped up throughout the year by nagging turf toe and ankle injuries that limited him from doing cool shit like this, but his main source of consternation was self-induced.
Once again, Allen was embroiled in a tripping scandal—this after he was not internally reprimanded following a pair of similar cases in 2016. In a December throwaway game against Elon, Allen snagged the knee of guard Steven Santa Ana with his foot after being beaten on a drive, and then threw a very raw temper tantrum on the sidelines.
He was indefinitely suspended by Mike Krzyzewski the following day—naturally, Allen was back for ACC play after sitting out one game. From there, the spotlight intensified and Allen involved himself in multiple instances that toed the line of dirty play. This led to backlash (“OFF WITH HIS FEET”) and backlash to the backlash (“HE’S JUST A BOY!”). Like Allen, it was all incredibly stupid and highly entertaining.
While Allen flailed his feet and occasionally produced great performances, the Blue Devils leaned on sophomore shooting guard Luke Kennard and freshman forward Jayson Tatum to power their offense. Kennard, like Allen in 2016, had a terrific sophomore campaign after a quiet rookie season, leading the Blue Devils offense with 19.5 points per game and shooting 43.8 percent from long range. With both Kennard and Tatum currently planning on entering the NBA draft, Allen will be the sole upperclassman starter to return to Duke. He will be joined in the backcourt by rising sophomore Frank Jackson, who ended the season looking like a potential first-round draft pick, and incoming five-star recruit Gary Trent Jr.
If Allen’s lucky, keeps his feet to himself, and reclaims his spot as Duke’s most lethal offensive weapon, he’ll have a slim but sincere chance at having his jersey hung among the rafters in Cameron. When he sabotages himself during some shitty December game people would otherwise not be watching, well, that’s what we’re here for.