It would be fair to say that Grayson Allen of the Phoenix Suns has had a career year. He leads the league in 3-point shooting at 49 percent, and when Bradley Beal missed considerable time for the Suns through injury early in the season, it was Allen to elevated his game to compensate for this.
But Allen is still simply a role player - albeit one who is exceeding expectations this season - and so he should be judged as such. But in watching Austin Reaves of the Los Angeles Lakers struggle to be the third best player on a team featuring LeBron James and Anthony Davis, perhaps now is the time to start an unexpected and frankly outrageous dialogue.
Which is are we sure - like absolutely positive - that Reaves is that much better at the game of basketball than Allen?
Come one now, this is an open and shut case right? Reaves is only 25-years-old compared to the 28 of Allen, and he is expected to do a lot more for the Lakers than Allen is for the Suns. Besides, and we know you're thinking it, are we just being lazy and comparing these two players because they're white and they kinda, sorta, have similar aspects to their game?
There's actually a little bit more to it than that, and we've even got some numbers to support the case of Allen. He's leading the league in 3-pointers, that's a nice place to start, but he's also started more games than Reaves, at 47. That's every game he has been available so far this season, whereas Reaves has alternated between the bench and the starting group to go 29-of-54.
Allen also has the better field goal percentage (51.1 percent to 48.8 percent), effective field goal percentage (66.3 percent to 56.4 percent) and free-throw percentage (88.4 percent to 85.8 percent). Interestingly, Allen only takes half a field goal attempt less per game than Reaves at this stage as well, trailing 12.5 to 13 in that area.
Reaves still puts up more points (15.7 to 12.8) and has the higher usage rate (by nearly seven percent) and assists each night (5.4 to 3.1, although Allen did have a whopping 14 assists recently) but be honest, this is a bit more of a conversation than you thought isn't it? What would happen if you swapped both of them as well?
Allen would provide the Lakers with some much needed spacing and another scoring threat, while also being serviceable defensively. The Lakers are slightly better defensively when Reaves is on the court (115.4), compared to when Allen is out there for the Suns (116.1). But Reaves also plays and in general starts alongside Davis and James, something Allen cannot compete with.
Offensively Allen is on another level, with his rating of 121 miles better than the 116.8 of Reaves. We have to play this argument fairly on both sides though, and Allen is usually out there with Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Beal. Despite this, the Lakers and their defensively solid star duo are tied for league average with the Suns in defensive rating so far this season, at 114.8.
Offensively the Suns are now a top 10 group (eighth, 118), while the Lakers head up the bottom 10 (20th, 114). Would swapping Allen and Reaves make these numbers any better? It is hard to know, but this conversation was born out of the struggles of Reaves in a recent loss to the Denver Nuggets. He had 15 points in 36 minutes, going 6-for-16 from the field in the process.
Also worth mentioning is the fact that Reaves is currently in the first of a four-year, $54 million deal he signed last offseason. Allen is about to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, and you could see him getting a deal that would pay him roughly $20 million less than this over the same length of time.
Allen has also never really been asked to be a third option in the same way that Reaves is, and so it feels like we see him shoot first, second and third when the ball is in his hands. Perhaps he's closer in playmaking ability to Reaves - certainly not better but closer - than we all actually think. Say what you want about Allen, he is overachieving this season, but those Reaves numbers are pedestrian.
So ok yes, fine... Austin Reaves is still a better player than Grayson Allen. But the fact you've gotten this far means that you too didn't think it was a ridiculous conversation to have, with both having plenty of superstar help on their respective teams. The Lakers need Reaves to do more than Allen, yet Allen did more than expected with Beal out. Perhaps one to revisit in future then...