Plugging the Hole: Kadeem Allen Doing Best T.J. McConnell Impression

Posted by Mike Lemaire on November 26th, 2015

Everyone talking about Arizona during the offsesaon (even Jay Bilas) seemed to agree that the biggest question facing head coach Sean Miller was how he would replace do-it-all point guard T.J. McConnell; but no one could have expected how quickly transfer junior Kadeem Allen would be able to answer that question.

Kadeem Allen Has Emerged As An Answer at Point Guard for Arizona

Kadeem Allen Has Emerged As An Answer at Point Guard for Arizona. (Arizona Athletics)

The statistical comparison between the two players comes with a rather large disclaimer that Arizona hasn’t played anyone of note this season in its four games; but so far, at least, Allen looks like a competent replacement for McConnell. Without trying to pretend this is an apples to apples review, it is worth noting that Allen has been the more efficient offensive player (125.3 to 118.3 in ORtg; 60.5%  to 53.8% eFG), a better passer (45.0% to 39.0% in ARate) and a more opportunistic defender (4.9% to 4.3% in Stl%). It’s certainly likely that his efficiency and assist rate will fall back to Earth as he faces better competition, but Arizona’s ability to reload instead of rebuild this season depended heavily on the team’s point guard play. Early indications show that Allen and sophomore Parker Jackson-Cartwright are absolutely ready to fill that role.

What makes Allen’s immediate progression as a point guard so intriguing isn’t that his ability was ever in question (he made all sorts of impact newcomer lists in the preseason, for example) but that most viewed him as the defense-first combo guard and Jackson-Cartwright as the pass-happy floor general. But while Allen’s defense has been as good as advertised, his play-making ability, and more importantly, his understanding of his role in the offense, have been a pleasant surprise.

It couldn’t have been easy for Miller to convince the National Junior College Player of the Year to redshirt a year upon arrival to campus, but now he has also convinced the 25+ PPG scorer to adapt to a supporting role as well. Allen’s game is still a work in progress, as he isn’t much of a shooting threat and his aggressive defense has led to early foul trouble, but his development has given Arizona’s rotation an added dimension. He was initially expected to make his impact on the defensive end –and Miller readily talks about how the junior will be tasked with guarding the opponent’s best player (see: Boise State’s Anthony Drmic) — but his surprising offensive versatility means that Jackson-Cartwright – who has actually played more minutes than Allen and may very well take the starting point guard job eventually – doesn’t have to shoulder those responsibilities by himself.

No disrespect meant for Jackson-Cartwright, a good point guard in his own right, but his size limitations at 5’11, 170 lbs., leave the Wildcats’ defense vulnerable against big Pac-12 guards like Tyler Dorsey from Oregon and Tyrone Wallace from Cal. Now Miller knows that he can trot out a more defensive-oriented lineup that features Allen without having to worry about the offense completely falling apart. It is way too early to call Allen the key to Arizona making that elusive Final Four run under Miller, but his early success should quiet some of the doubters in the early portion of this season.

mlemaire (324 Posts)

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