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Lakers Draft News: Kadeem Allen hopes defensive prowess earns him NBA shot

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Allen was an elite defender at Arizona, drawing comparisons to Aaron Gordon and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson

Texas Southern v Arizona Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Lakers worked out Arizona guard Kadeem Allen on Tuesday in their second pre-draft workout. It was the seventh workout for Allen, who hails from the same school as Luke Walton.

“It’s always fun playing in front of all the Arizona guys, especially a head coach like him,” Allen said.

Allen, 24, averaged 9.8 points per game on 45.3 percent shooting at Arizona this past season. The 6’3 guard is ranked 75th on DraftExpress’ list of Top 100 prospects and is expected to go undrafted.

Allen’s best qualities are on the defensive side of the ball. Armed with a 6-9 wingspan and elite lateral quickness, he is able to guard multiple positions at a high level. As a senior, the Wilmington, North Carolina native led the Wildcats in steals (1.6) and blocks per game (0.6) and was a member of the Pac-12 All-Defensive Team.

“I feel defense is my strongest point,” Allen said after working out with the Lakers. “That’s what got me here and I’m not going to change anything. Everywhere I go I’m just going to keep playing defense and keep doing what I do."

Arizona head coach Sean Miller said in January that Allen is as good as any defender he has coached at the UA, which is certainly noteworthy considering he’s had lockdown defenders like Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Aaron Gordon on his roster in the past.

“During the eight seasons that I’ve been here, he’s right there as the best,” Miller said of Allen.

Allen turned in several impressive defensive performances with the Wildcats, none better than when he held likely No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz to 16 points on 23 shots.

Fultz wasn’t blown away by Allen after that game, but Miller was.

“He’s one of the best defensive guards that you guys could ever watch,” Miller said. “I really mean that. I mean he does it on the ball. He does it against a variety of players. He’s not relegated to just guarding a point guard, or just guarding a two-guard. He can guard a 1, 2, or a 3. Off the ball, he makes plays as well.”

Said Fultz, “I think [Allen] got a couple calls go his way. ... He’s a good defender, but I didn’t feel like he bothered me. I still got to the rim and still got to my pull-up.

“I wish I would have made my layups and free-throws, but that’s not going to happen next time, I’m pretty sure. This happened to be one of the games where I missed some easy ones.”

Offensively, Allen split time at both guard spots, though he profiles more as a two-guard. Before transferring to Arizona, Allen was the 2014 National JUCO Player of the Year and was second in the NJCAA in scoring (25.9 PPG).

His scoring numbers didn’t translate as well as hoped with the Wildcats, though part of that can be explained by him being asked to run Arizona’s offense as opposed to playing off the ball.

That said, Allen made noticeable strides as a 3-point shooter, upping his percentage from 36.0 percent to 42.7 percent in two seasons with the Wildcats, albeit it was in a rather small sample size.

Allen isn’t much of a leaper and shot 55.7 percent at the rim as a senior, per Hoop-math.com. Additionally, he averaged 3.0 assists per game with an assist-to-turnover rate just under 2.0.

A NBA comparison that has been thrown around for Allen is Houston Rockets’ guard Patrick Beverley. Stuck behind current Sixers guard T.J. McConnell on the depth chart, Allen redshirted in his first year at Arizona, before playing two seasons with the Wildcats.

In May, Allen became the first member of his family to graduate from college.