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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.


  1. While Allen’s production may go down because of the newcomers, his efficiency is likely to go up with the attention being more evenly spread out.  What I really look forward to next season is the defensive effort that can be given with added depth lessening foul trouble issues.  This team goes 9 deep with Thornton and Jeter being the last two getting minutes and K only goes 8 at most…  it makes me wonder if anybody leaves keeping in mind that we’ll lose Jefferson and Jones to graduation along with Giles, Tatum, Allen (quite likely) and Jackson (good chance) to the NBA after season’s end.  Duke has shown that they can reload quickly but it would be a nice luxury in the era of the OAD to have three Jr.s starting in 2017 (Kennard, Thornton and Jeter) and as seniors the following year.  Allen’s return could mean very big things for them but I hope too much isn’t sacrificed because of it.  Hopefully that doesn’t come across as a dig at his decision.  On the contrary, I applaud it–especially for his given reasons.  He has certainly earned the right to make that choice and despite the “trips”, I love watching this kid play harder than everyone else on the court–only player to challenge him on effort level in the ACC last season was Plumlee!

  2. I see next season Duke has 13 players now set to return, and that’s the max scholarships the NCAA allows for Men’s teams, yet I see that they are still heavily recruiting Marques Bolden. So does that mean they will not renew someones scholarship? Tell someone to hit the road you are not welcome back as a scholarship player? I’d hate to see that. Is it possible that an Academic All-American such as Grayson Allen, who wants to return to graduate college in 3 years, could be switched over to an academic scholarship?

  3. Tommy Duke I have a feeling that the coaching staff knows something we don’t or they wouldn’t still be pursuing Bolden so hard.  The two rumors i’ve heard the most are Thornton transferring or Obi retiring due to his knees but nothing has been substantiated at this point.  Coach K and his staff are paid big bucks to figure these things out and I would be shocked if they didn’t have this already figured out but who knows?  Either way, having Allen back in the fold makes us an absolute monster on paper.  We’ll see how the roster plays out and hopefully no one get’s injured.  Super pumped about next year.  #SightsOnSix

  4. Tommy Duke – I’ve been wondering the same thing–gonna agree with patowens and say that the staff has a grasp on this–previously, I assumed that they were under the impression Grayson was leaving to free that scholarship up…  maybe they knew he wasn’t or maybe there on to plan B.