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What Grayson Allen Returning Means for Duke

Grayson Allen Duke Basketball
Photo: Mark Dolejs-USATSI

The Duke Basketball team received some great news this week when Grayson Allen announced he’d be returning to school for his junior season.

The 2nd Team All-American and 1st Team All-ACC performer just completed one of the most impressive offensive seasons in the history of the Duke program, leading the Blue Devils in scoring at 21.6 points, while also grabbing 4.3 rebounds. He led the team in assists at 3.5 and steals at 1.3.

For someone who was expected to do so much on offense, Allen was incredibly efficient, shooting nearly 42% from 3-point range, 84% from the free throw line, and 47% from the field.

Duke fans hoped Allen would be able to flourish in an expanded role as a sophomore, and he most certainly did.

As a junior, Allen will have the opportunity to try to win his second national championship in three years and could be a two-time All-American. He’ll almost certainly enter next season as a Preseason All-American.

However, he has the luxury of returning to a team that will be one of the most talented in Duke basketball history.

Had Allen departed for the 2016 NBA Draft, Duke would have likely been the No. 1 team in the polls entering the 2016-17 season. Now that it’s been confirmed that he’ll be part of the rotation next season, the Blue Devils are essentially a lock to be at the top of the polls.

It’s not often that you have an All-American announce he’s returning to school for another season and he returns to a team where he’s the third best player, but that’s probably the situation Allen will be stepping into as a junior. Incoming freshmen Jayson Tatum and Harry Giles are currently projected as the No. 1 and 2 picks in the 2017 NBA Draft.

The addition of Tatum and Giles, as well as McDonald’s All American Frank Jackson, combined with the expected improvement of Luke Kennard, should give Mike Krzyzewski the luxury of having a variety of offensive options next year.

Allen has proven himself capable of scoring from anywhere on the floor and handling pressure, but he can share the load next season. Actually, it could take the Blue Devils some time to figure out who the best option is when the game is on the line, as Jayson Tatum and Luke Kennard are both guys used to having the ball in those situations.

Grayson’s return to Duke also places a huge target on next season’s team. It was amazing to watch the way the media dissected every move by Allen during the postseason, even going as far as making up potential “trips” anytime a player within his proximity would fall.

The sad reality is that topics like that get clicks and web traffic, which has become a huge part of what drives the business of journalism and reporting. As such, Grayson Allen and Duke will be more scrutinized than ever. Hopefully he can continue to succeed under that pressure.

Fortunately, Duke still has a head coach who knows a few things about executing under pressure.

Without Grayson Allen, next season’s Duke team had a chance to be great. With him, next season’s team has a chance to be one of the all-time greats.