Texas basketball should let Timmy Allen facilitate more from the paint

One of the leaders returning for head coach Chris Beard and Texas basketball for the 2022-23 season is the rising super senior forward/big man Timmy Allen. Texas is getting back one of the most productive and critical players from last season in Allen as this team looks to make another jump in the postseason in 2023.

Allen was the team leader for the Longhorns last season in points per game (12.1), rebounds (6.4), and tied for the team lead in steals (1.2). He shouldered a lot of the responsibility for the Longhorns in terms of leading this team on both ends of the floor last season, especially with the lack of frontcourt help at times.

A notable change in Allen’s stat line last season, though, compared to his past years with the Utah Utes was the shift in assist numbers. Prior to transferring to Texas last offseason, Allen averaged around three assists per game with an assist percentage around 20. Yet, he averaged barely over two assists per game last season and an assist percentage just south of 16.

It’s notable that Allen’s assist numbers were also trending up at the conclusion of his final season playing for the Utes. Allen averaged around four assists per game during the 2020-21 campaign at Utah. That essentially means his assist numbers were cut in half with Texas last season.

Allen even experienced a greater decline in his facilitating numbers in Big 12 play last season. He posted a 13.2 assists percentage and just 1.7 assists per game in Big 12 play.

So, what caused this decline in Allen’s facilitating production and where does he go from here?

First and foremost, Allen experienced an overall decline in his usage rate (down from around 30 percent to 23 season-over-season in the last two years) since last year at Utah. That will naturally lead to a decline in assist numbers.

Texas basketball should open up the offense more next season around F Timmy Allen

But that doesn’t account for the nearly 50 percent dip in Allen’s assists per game and assist percentage year-over-year since the 2020-21 campaign.

A lot of this has to do with the way that Utah utilized Allen during his time with the Utes compared to how Beard and the Longhorns slotted him last season. Utah often had Allen play at the three or the four as a playmaker that would command the offense from outside the arc. Allen would often post up around the three-point line and get the offense going from there.

That didn’t necessarily mean that Allen was more of a three-point threat with the Utes, but he did handle the ball at least 10 feet from the basket much more often than he did at Texas last season. But Allen did take more three-point attempts at Utah from 2019-2021 than he did at Texas last year. Allen actually averaged nearly two three-point attempts per game in his last season at Utah.

Despite handling the ball outside the three-point line more often at Utah, Allen still was able to drive the lane and get to the rim often.

That meant that Allen had an expanded floor to work with as a playmaker and facilitator of the offense at Utah, opening up more possibilities for him to find his teammates to hit open shots and get them easy looks cutting through the lane.

The same couldn’t be said for Allen at Texas last season. He was often kept near the paint exclusively, especially in Big 12 play once Texas lost center Tre Mitchell for the back half of the season. Mitchell leaving the team for personal reasons last season meant that Beard had to give Allen more minutes at the five to fill the gap in the starting frontcourt.

And with Mitchell gone for good and no key replacements in line for him, that leaves Allen in a situation where he’s still likely going to play most of his minutes as a power forward that lives down low or as a smaller center.

But that doesn’t mean that Texas has to completely limit Allen’s offensive game. One way that Beard and the Longhorns can help Allen expand his facilitating ability would see him work the offense from the inside out more often.

Texas will have more playmakers and capable scorers around Allen this season compared to last. That will give Allen more open threats to kick the ball out to when he gets doubled-teamed or doesn’t have the look he wants closer to the basket.

Allen has displayed some special court vision in the past during his time at Utah. We also saw some real playmaking skills out of Allen in his first year with the Longhorns last season.

There should also be some encouragement for the Longhorns to run faster in transition next season. It felt like Texas slowed the ball down sometimes when they could’ve pushed the pace in transition. Allen tends to thrive when his team is running fast pace in transition.

All in all, there are ways that the Longhorns can maximize the court vision that Allen brings to the table as a two-way forward that can play at the four or the five in a small ball lineup. Let him have more freedom when he has the ball closer to the basket, and potentially let him work the ball around the perimeter at least from time to time.

This Texas offense could open up and have more space to get open buckets next season if Allen is performing at or near peak efficiency.

Texas finish up last season with a record of 22-11 (10-8 Big 12) following a loss in the Round of 32 to the three-seed Purdue Boilermakers. Allen and the Longhorns will open up the 2022-23 regular season on Nov. 7 at home against UTEP.