A lot of folks had some decent-sized expectations for Lavoy Allen this season. With Andrew Bynum expected to anchor the middle and Allen inked to a two-year contract after a strong performance in the playoffs against the Celtics last May, higher expectations seemed reasonable.
But as the Sixers limp to the finish line of a disappointing season, Allen might not be quite ready for prime time.
Headed into Wednesday’s game against the Hawks, Allen averaged 5.9 points and 5.1 rebounds per game in 74 appearances. Though that’s up a bit from his rookie season but it hasn’t come close to matching the numbers posted by Nik Vucevic, whose minutes fell to Allen when he was traded to Orlando in the Bynum deal.
Like a microcosm of the Sixers’ season, Allen was sometimes brilliant and sometimes even good. But mostly he was underwhelming. After Allen pulled down a career-high 22 rebounds against Charlotte on Feb. 9, he was nearly shut out on the boards the next night.
In the course of two games Allen set the team season high for rebounds and then nearly became the first player to follow a 22-rebound night with a goose egg.
It could have been a better season, Allen admitted.
“Basketball-wise, I didn’t have a great year,” Allen said. “I was up and down here and there.”
But there is promise for Allen. Selected with the 50th overall pick in the 2011 NBA draft out of Temple, Allen went from starting his rookie season on the inactive list to playing significant minutes against the Boston Celtics in the playoffs. When the 2012-13 season began and Bynum wasn’t ready to go, Sixers head coach Doug Collins put Allen into the starting lineup.
Allen started 37 of the first 42 games, but fell to a role on the bench when Spencer Hawes emerged as the team’s best option in the middle. As always, Collins said, it got back to one element of Allen’s game.
“I go back to when we drafted him -- play with a motor,” Collins said.
“I remember in the playoffs the job Lavoy did to match up with Kevin Garnett and how we wanted him on the floor because of the job he did with him,” Collins continued. “We need him to have a much better year. We need him. We need our bigs for what we’re trying to do and obviously Thad [Young] and Spencer are two guys we count on heavily, but over the course of a long season, Lavoy can shoot, he has size and a good feel for the game. Arnett [Moultrie] has all of those capabilities too, so he’s going to have to take a big jump, too.”
Though Allen says his performance could have been better this season, he didn’t have an answer when asked what he learned about his game this year in comparison with his rookie year. He also said there were very few folks whose expectations he tries to live up to.
In fact, when asked which elements of his game he planned on working on this summer, Allen said he plans to work on his overall game. As far as increased energy goes, what you see is what you get with Allen.
“I only thought automobiles had motors, not people,” Allen said with a laugh.
Still, Collins believes Allen has a lot to work with and the problems he has on the court have nothing to do with his talent.
“With Lavoy it’s never about whether he’s talented or not,” Collins said.
Collins often points out that it often takes a player three years until they settle in to the NBA life and get their games together. For big men, however, sometimes it takes longer than three years. When Collins coached the Pistons he had a big man who showed all the signs of becoming a great player, but didn’t put it together until he joined the Sixers.
“I remember I had Theo Ratliff where all of a sudden he started taking off,” Collins said. “You have to be patient, but unfortunately in this business when winning and losing on a nightly basis are so important, it’s sometimes tough to have that kind of patience.
Collins seems to hint that the Sixers will have some patience with Allen.
“I think as long as guys show that commitment and you see it every day, that patience is longer,” Collins said.