At this point, it seems like every person in Big Blue Nation officially has a membership to the Dontaie Allen Fan Club. Unfortunately for Allen, the one person who actually controls his minutes is still holding out.
An array of criticisms were thrown John Calipari’s way on Saturday night after Kentucky’s loss to conference opponent, Auburn. One of the most common critiques was Calipari’s decision to only play Allen for 23 minutes. Calipari had an answer, but not one that satisfied any of the naysayers.
“At the end of the day, we were running plays for Dontaie and he wouldn’t shoot the ball,” Calipari said in response to his substitution patterns.
Now, on the surface this obviously upset people, but to be a fair judge, I went back and watched the game again (yes, it was as painful as the first time).
Upon review, Allen passed up a whopping two wide-open looks. In contrast, he kept the team in the game the first half, led the team with an 11 +/-, and was one of two players on the team to have zero turnovers on the night.
Additionally, Allen gave the team something no other players are providing: spacing. When Allen was on the floor Auburn struggled to contain players on the drive and constantly had to locate Allen off the ball. On the other hand, with Allen on the bench, Auburn contracted its defense to the point where gaps for any Wildcats to slash inside became nearly impenetrable.
It seems painstakingly clear Allen not only did more positive on the court than negative, but may have had the best night of any of the ‘Cats, while only playing nearly half the game. So, why isn’t he playing more?
To start, it’s true that Calipari is calling plays for Allen. Nonetheless, more often than not those plays end up falling apart or resulting in Allen being looked off altogether. Let’s start with the less depressing explanation of the two.
Calipari runs a few plays for Allen, but maybe the most repetitive was the gate screen leading to a three-point attempt for Allen at the top of the key. A good play, but not one a defense is going to repetitively fall for. By the time Kentucky was attempting the same play in the second half, Auburn’s defenders were jumping the screens as if they had seen into the future.
More commonly, Allen was finding his shot attempts through the flow of the game as the Auburn defense got caught watching the ball. The problem doesn’t fall solely on Allen not shooting when a play is ran for him, but rather the play-calling becoming repetitive, and more importantly, predictable.
Secondly, as mentioned before, Allen is simply getting missed by his teammates. One can only assume this issue is less intentional, however the problem is just as urgent.
Fellow guards such as Davion Mintz and Devin Askew missed an open Allen on multiple occasions throughout the game. For a player like Allen to succeed it’s imperative whenever the defense slips up that he has a chance to capitalize. Allen isn’t going to be the player to hit step-backs from deep in the defender’s grill, but he is the type of player that will win a team games. I can say with confidence that most people would prefer the latter.
Two shots not taken by Allen doesn’t equate to the numerous shots he makes and helps create for teammates when he’s on the court. Much of the root of this issue falls back to the same drawback Calipari has faced for years: having a longer leash for highly-touted players.
Allen isn’t the only one of the ‘Cats to pass up open shots, but he is the one to pay the price for it. Why? Because he isn’t supposed to be as good as the other guys on the court? Dontaie Allen has been just as good, if not better than the other guys on the court.
Frankly, Allen deserves more chances not only for his shotmaking ability, but his effect on the game. If Coach Calipari is concerned about taking “anybody’s heart away” then he should be most concerned about the Kentucky kid, willing to play his heart out, sitting on the end of the bench.