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Lavoy Allen's emergence changes his trade's narrative

Molding himself into a dependable role player and, perhaps, needed insurance policy, Lavoy Allen's emergence casts the controversial and unpopular trade that brought him here in a new light.

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Back in February, the eleventh hour trade that shipped fan favorite Danny Granger to Philadelphia in exchange for Evan Turner was met predominantly with shock and indignation. At the time, altering the dynamic of the Pacers just two months shy of the postseason was, now in retrospect, rather prophetically painted as an unnecessary gamble for a team sitting atop the Eastern Conference standings. Though Granger was very clearly struggling to regain his lift and mobility as well as his shooting touch, opponents of the swap questioned whether the former Ohio State standout and No. 2 pick in the 2010 draft was significant enough return for the loss of a life-long Pacer:

  • Would the team's chemistry be the same without Granger?
  • Is Turner's role redundant to Stephenson's and would adding him as an insurance policy be a distraction to Lance in a contract year?
  • Was Bird unnecessarily tinkering with what wasn't necessarily broken?
  • Was this a public message to the league that the Pacers - as is - were not good enough to dethrone the two-time reigning NBA champions?

For his part, the Pacers' acquisition did little to silence the worries of doubters. Forced to learn everything on the fly while transitioning from a starter for the Philadelphia 76ers to a reserve for the Indiana Pacers, Turner's numbers all took a sizable hit. Meanwhile, his inability to contain his opponent and grasp the Pacers' league-leading defensive schemes oftentimes stood out like a sore thumb. By the time the playoffs arrived, Indiana's shiny new toy was replaced in the playing rotation by 35 year-old NBA journeyman Rasual Butler. Meanwhile, rumors of a practice altercation between himself and Stephenson ominously swirled.

With cries of "I told you so" reverberating throughout the NBA community, the other moving parts of the deadline deal - including Lavoy Allen and a 2015 second round pick - were sparsely, if ever, mentioned. To detractors, Turner was unsuccessfully replacing the player fans had made synonymous with steadfastly guiding the team through the dark years. In the end, shipping away the last remaining vestige from The Brawl and its aftermath was perceived as a low blow and, at least to the masses, that was all that really mattered.

Until now.

Evan Turner is attempting to better find his fit with Brad Stevens' Boston Celtics and Danny Granger has only appeared in two games since inking a deal with the Miami Heat, but Lavoy Allen's sudden emergence is changing the narrative of  what many described as, at best, an unnecessary move and, at worst, a failed trade.

With David West missing the first 15 games of the season due to a badly sprained left ankle, Allen has shown what he can do in a Pacers' uniform when provided increased opportunity.

What exactly is it that Allen brings to Indiana?

As of the Pacers game against the Cleveland Cavaliers, he leads all NBA reserves in rebounds per game (8.1). At a stout 15.5%, he ranks third in the entire league in offensive rebound percentage (an estimate of the available rebounds a player grabbed while he was on the floor). According to the NBA's Player Tracking Data when filtering only those players averaging at least 7.0 rebounds per game, the second-year Pacer - earning only 22.7 minutes of playing time per game - ranks 11th in the league in contested rebound percentage. Sandwiched between Tim Duncan (49.7%) and Omer Asik (47.7%), Allen recovers 48.2% of rebounds contested by opponents.

For a team that ranks 26th in points per game and 5th in points allowed, rebounding is near to paramount. Converting just 42.7% of their field goal attempts, only the Houston Rockets (42.5%), Oklahoma City Thunder (42.2%), Philadelphia 76ers (41.3%), and Detroit Pistons (41.1%) shoot the ball worse from the field than the Indiana Pacers. As such, getting as many looks at the basket as they can via second chance points as well as capping off defensive possessions has been near to essential for this undermanned Pacer team's campaign to stay afloat in the playoff hunt, especially if they continue to rank 20th in offensive rating, 25th in assists, and 20th in turnovers.

For now, the Pacers rank 2nd in rebounds per game and Lavoy Allen is arguably the biggest reason why. When the third-string forward is on the court, the Pacers grab 32.4% of the offensive rebounds available to them, as compared to the 24.9% the team recovers when he is off the court. That marks the largest differential of any player on the Pacers' roster.

Fortunately, Allen has been more than just a superb rebounder this season. The second-year Pacer knows his role on the team and he doesn't try to buck the system (averaging less than one turnover per game). In addition to putting himself in position to convert second-chance points, Allen lurks near the top of the key and serves as a reliable pick-and-pop shooter. Knocking down 44.7% of shots from between 16 feet of the basket and three-point range, Allen - in the mold of those he backs up - creates space for his teammates to operate in the paint. The former 76er may not be a budding star, but he is consistent.

All of this, of course, bodes well for Indiana as it is well-known that Luis Scola (an unrestricted free agent) and David West (possessing an early termination option) could both hit free agency in the summer of 2015:

Distance from rim David West (2013-14) Luis Scola (2014-15) Lavoy Allen (2014-15)
3-10 feet 43.5% 42.9% 37.9%
16 feet - 3-point 52.1% 46.4% 44.7%

Financially, it may be in Roy Hibbert's best interest to opt-in with the Pacers this summer in order to test free agency in 2016 when the NBA's new lucrative TV deal goes into full effect, but for West things are decidedly different.

At Media Day, sobering realism ruled the day for the 12-year veteran as he responded to questions about his own playing mortality and Indiana's abrupt fall from contention:

"What your intention was in Indiana (when West signed), that reality is no longer here," West said. "That's just me being me. I'm not going to create this persona like we can just sort of keep going at the pace and direction that we were going. I think you just set yourself up for failure in those moments."

With West making it clear that he is not going to play forever, there is no firm guarantee that the "addition" of Paul George will be enough to keep him in Blue-and-Gold. Likewise, the possibility looms that Luis Scola - currently asked to play a lesser role - may choose to adorn himself in a different color scheme next season.

If (and emphasis on "if") the Pacers are setback by one or more significant free agency defections before next season, Lavoy Allen's development and comparable skill set will make such a happening slightly more palatable and less dicey if Indiana chooses to retain him.

Make no mistake, Lavoy Allen is not David West. The latter has 100 career double-doubles and arguably was the piece that transformed the Pacers' franchise, while the former has recorded a total of eight double-doubles in four seasons. Even so, there is very definite reason to be encouraged by his above mentioned numbers.

As head coach Frank Vogel said after Lavoy Allen chipped in 10 points and grabbed 14 rebounds against the Orlando Magic on Friday, "He's not going to spend a lot of time on the bench with the way he's playing."

Right now, there is no way to predict what decisions West and Scola will make for themselves in free agency, but what is certain is that Allen's emergence provides a safety net, if he elects to re-sign here, as well as a means by which to see last February's controversial trade in a new light. With Granger seemingly no longer capable of being the version of himself that had once been an All-Star and averaged 25.8 points per game, the Indiana Pacers, in exchange, gained a valuable role player and quite possibly, should he stay, a needed insurance policy.

It's just that his name is not Evan Turner.

It's Lavoy Allen.