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Jarrett Allen, Nets center, quietly developing into one of the NBA's best big men

Brooklyn Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson complimented his second-year center as "often our most important player."

Jarrett Allen is averaging 1.5 blocks in 26.5

Jarrett Allen is averaging 1.5 blocks in 26.5 minutes for the Nets this season. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

LeBron James. Anthony Davis. Giannis Antetokounmpo. Not only are these names likely NBA All-Stars and potential MVP candidates, but they're also victims of Jarrett Allen's ability to protect the rim.

The second-year Brooklyn Nets center is improving on both ends of the floor, but his highlight-reel blocked shots are garnering plenty of attention. Allen himself downplays the attention his eye-catching defense receives, telling amNewYork before last Wednesday's 116-100 victory over visiting Atlanta Hawks that he sees it as simply doing his job and that his defensive gifts are more instinctive as opposed to thinking on the court.

“I’m down there to block the shot so it’s not like I’m like, 'Oh, LeBron is coming at me. Oh, I know it’s LeBron,’ ” said Allen, who scored 11 points, grabbed five rebounds and blocked three shots against the Hawks. "I’m just going up there to block the shot and make the play. I’m not having a certain mentality to go after anybody.”

Allen, who the Nets selected No. 22 overall in the 2017 NBA Draft, enters Monday's game against the Boston Celtics at Barclays Center with averages of 11.5 points, 8.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 26.5 minutes, all of which are improved from his rookie campaign. Head coach Kenny Atkinson spoke highly of Allen's growth since his first professional season.

“He’s obviously gotten stronger and he’s rebounding the ball better,” Atkinson told repoters before the game against Atlanta. “That was a big, big point of emphasis for us this offseason, getting him stronger and improving his rebounding. I think he’s done both. His mobility at that size, his athleticism, the way he moves, it’s why we were attracted to him in the draft and we saw the upside.

"At 20 years old, you could argue he’s often our most important player and his growth has been phenomenal.”

Atkinson, after the win over the Hawks, referred Nets veteran big man Ed Davis as Allen’s “personal coach” and says that he serves as a mentor for the young big man.

“I think he’s a $100 million player,” Davis told reporters after the game. “His timing on defense, his shot blocking, he’s not scared, athletic as hell, great touch, great footwork.”

Allen isn't likely to be joining the stars whose shot attempts he notably swatted away in next month's All-Star Game, but he could still be among them for the weekend festivities in Charlotte. Expect him to be selected for the Rising Stars Challenge, allowing fans leaguewide a closer look at Brooklyn's emerging center.

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