Slice it however you want, but NC State has played some of their most efficient and exciting offensive basketball over the past two games.
That span just so happens to coincide with Thomas Allen being held out of the lineup with an ankle injury.
So what gives? Are these things coinciding just a coincidence, or has NC State found better chemistry without Allen on the floor?
Look, this is a tough topic to really dive into because it’s 2021 and hurting people’s feelings is basically against the law, especially when you’re being critical of 19-20-year-olds who are working their butts off and giving it everything they’ve got. But the truth of the matter is, chemistry matters in basketball and stats don’t lie.
Coaches are getting paid to win, so they need to make tough decisions with minutes. At the same time, sites like this one are getting paid when people read, and people don’t just want read fluff pieces. It’s easy for the media to run those and tip-toe around the tough questions, especially when the school or program you’re asking those questions about, controls your access. But PI brought me on to handle these questions and that’s exactly what I’m going to do.
Hold your nose. We’re diving in.
Question: Should Thomas Allen’s role decrease when he returns or does Keatts slot him back in as a starter?
Now, let’s examine this situation.
Thomas Allen, a transfer junior, is not only a good kid, he’s a hard worker and a talented basketball player. But Thomas Allen is having trouble creating a lot of tangible value for the NC State basketball team thus far. It’s not about personality or attitude, it’s about his skillset, role, and the fact that he has some competition for minutes all of the sudden.
Allen was 2nd on the team in minutes, averaging over 26 per game. At the same time, he was shooting the lowest % of any player on the roster who is getting significant minutes (36.4%). This wouldn’t be a huge deal if Allen were creating value in other areas, but his forte is scoring, and when he’s not knocking down shots he tends to fade into the background a bit.
Allen is averaging 1.6 assists per game. That is tied with Shakeel Moore for the lowest among NC State guards. However, Moore is only averaging 18-minute per game, meaning he has been more efficient in getting his teammates buckets. As for rebounding, Allen is doing a decent job, hauling in 2.5 per game, but that’s also tied with Shakeel Moore, who, as I stated, is doing that in 8 fewer minutes per game.
Defensively Allen is active and he’s physical. He averages 1.3 steals per game, however, there is Moore again, right with him. Moore is actually averaging 1.6 steals per game (again, in 8 fewer minutes.)
Now, Allen IS averaging 7 ppg and shooting 37.9% from 3-point range, but his splits are pretty significant. At home, he shoots 45% from beyond the arc and on the road, he’s only shooting 26%.
Allen has the opportunity to create value for NC State, but I think a refined role going forward is going to be the key to his success.
Let’s examine the changes that have occurred since Allen went out:
– Shakeel Moore’s playing time has increased.
– Dereon Seabron’s playing time has increased.
– Cam Hayes playing time has increased.
– Braxton Beverly’s playing time has decreased (due to nagging injuries).
I think a few things are going on here. The freshmen are starting to find their confidence and they’re starting to create a pretty nice chemistry with one another. However, the emergence of Cam Hayes has been the real game-changer.
Hayes at the point has allowed Beverly to move off the ball and play more of a shooting guard role. Before Cam was ready for this jump, it was Beverly handling most of the lead guard duties, which made room for Allen to slot in at the 2. Suddenly you. had two 6’1 guards (a defensive liability in the ACC) and neither was doing a very good job at scoring the basketball or consistently creating plays for their teammates.
Now you have the 6’4 Cam Hayes beginning to flourish at the point. You have Shakeel Moore basically playing the role that Allen was playing prior to his injury, but statistically doing it more efficiently, and you have Seabron coming into his own at 6’7 with the ability to slot into almost any position. This allows Beverly’s role to decrease a bit and it moves him off the ball where he is more valuable to this team as a shooter. But this shift also makes you wonder; ‘Where does Allen fit in?’
Obviously, that’s a question for Keatts, and I trust the guy. But if you’re asking me, I think you ride the wave you’re on right now. Not only are you winning, but you are building the confidence of your freshmen, who you’ll be relying on for years to come. I think Beverly’s senior leadership and headiness are a real asset to this team, so I think you have to be ok with the defensive trade-off that brings.
With that said, Allen is a talented scorer and you ALWAYS make room for scorers.
I think you slowly work Allen back in. You let him earn his minutes. If he’s hitting shots, he’s playing. If he’s off you lean on your freshmen.
For Allen to really create value for this ballclub, he’ll need to become a more reliable scorer on all levels. Better shot selection inside the arc would help some, but he really just needs to start knocking down 3s at a better clip. 37.9% ain’t bad, but 12 of his 25 3s have come in just 3 games. When he’s hot, he’s hot, but when he’s not, is he adding enough value elsewhere to make up for it? At this point, based on the options Keatts now has at his disposal, the answer is probably ‘no.’
Keatts now has the luxury of going big and long with Hayes and Seabron. He has Shakeel Moore matching Allen stat for stat but in fewer minutes. and he has Beverly who is starting to connect on his 3s and brings a level of senior leadership in the backcourt that’s unmatched on this roster.
This isn’t a knock on Allen, it’s just that the competition for his minutes just got ratcheted up a few notches and if he wants to earn those minutes back he’ll need to basically become the more athletic Beverly alternative. Either that or outplay Shakeel Moore both offensively or defensively.
No matter what your opinion is on this, it’s going to be interesting to see how Keatts integrates Allen back into the lineup if he’s available on Wednesday.