Lavoy Allen, the 500th Best Player in the NBA
Philadelphia Sixers big man Lavoy Allen was supposed to be the worst player in the NBA. That’s not a joke; according to a preseason survey performed by ESPN.com in which various experts rated every player in the league #1-500, Allen was the absolute last guy on the list. Five. Zero. Zero.
Considering that as a senior in high school Allen was rated the 110th best prospect in the nation, and that he also came into the 2011 draft as Chad Ford’s #99 prospect, it seems as though this kid has spent his entire life defying odds. Now, the young man who played high school and college ball in Philly is playing for the best 76ers team in years, and with Spencer Hawes likely to remain out until after the All-Star break, Allen’s even been starting.
“It’s been a great experience and a great bunch of guys, so it was an easy transition for me,” Allen told HOOPSWORLD. “Unfortunately, we’ve had some injuries—that’s why I’m able to start now—so I’m just trying to do the best I can.”
His best hasn’t been earth-shattering by any stretch of the imagination, but Allen has played better than any NBA scout ever expected. Guys taken 50th in the draft don’t normally get the opportunity Allen gets, and he definitely understands that.
“Coming in I knew it was basically the same team as last year, so I knew it wasn’t going to be many opportunities at the beginning,” he said. “But now that I have the opportunity, I’m trying to do what I can to impress the coaching staff and gain my teammates’ trust.”
That’s not hard to do when you’re a humble kid like Allen working his tail off. Work ethic is the easiest way to go about getting your teammates to believe in you.
“I just come mentally and physically ready,” Allen said. “Going out there working hard, remembering the coverages, remembering what guys do well, and playing the pick and roll. Stuff like that. Communicating with my teammates when I’m out there and just hitting the open jump shot.
“That’s my mind set,” he continued. “Just go out there and bang with them, keep them off the backboard. As long as I do that I know I’ve done my job.”
Since so many second-round draft picks never even get an opportunity to ride the pine for an NBA team, Allen was forced to take his game to Europe during the lockout. He played well for French team Strasbourg IG during the fall of 2011, but now Allen is just trying to enjoy the NBA experience, even though he still can’t quite believe it’s happening.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “I went over to France for a little while to play over there. Played for a good team, a good coach. Played against some tough players, and now coming into training camp I didn’t think I’d see that much of the floor. But now I’m just trying to hold my own against these guys until Spencer comes back. And then, just try to keep holding my own.”
It hasn’t been easy, especially not this season, where the games are so compacted and rookies like Allen didn’t even get a full training camp.
“You have a lot to learn very, very quickly, and I’m just starting to get the hang of it learning on the fly,” he said. “It’s been a little difficult, but I’m starting to get it.”
In the meantime, Allen isn’t getting a big head. He’s got five starts under his belt and, truthfully, they haven’t been jaw-dropping displays of basketball prowess. But that’s not what this down-to-earth Philadelphia kid is necessarily trying to accomplish this early in his career. He just wants to fit somewhere, to belong, to prove that the dopes who called him the worst player in the league are wrong.
“Every day teaches you humble,” he said. “You have to be in this league, especially as a rookie, but that’s just the way I am.”
And it’s kids like that who coaches don’t mind giving an opportunity. So what if Luther Head, Joey Dorsey, and Brian Scalabrine were rated higher on that ESPN.com Top 500 list? You know who else was rated below those guys? Jeremy Lin.
It just goes to show that numbers and rankings don’t mean as much as we sometimes think they do. Somebody’s always out there beating the odds, and right now Lavoy Allen’s doing so in the City of Brotherly Love.
But then again, that’s what he’s been doing for as long as he’s been playing basketball.