National Basketball Association
Is Grayson Allen a dirty player? NBA insiders weigh in
National Basketball Association

Is Grayson Allen a dirty player? NBA insiders weigh in

Updated Jan. 26, 2022 5:03 p.m. ET

By Ric Bucher
FOX Sports NBA Writer

Grayson Allen is at it again. Or is he? Or was he ever?

The Twitterverse went ballistic, as the Twitterverse is wont to do, after Allen, now with the Milwaukee Bucks, fouled Chicago Bulls guard Alex Caruso on a layup attempt last week, resulting in Caruso fracturing his right wrist and Allen receiving a one-game suspension. 


Suggested penalties ranged from Allen being suspended for as many games as Caruso misses — without pay — to incarceration.

Allen’s reputation for questionable tactics began at Duke, when he tripped two different opponents within a two-week span as a sophomore. He had a similar incident as a junior and was suspended for one game by the school.

Shortly after being drafted 21st by the Utah Jazz in 2018, Allen got into a scrum with Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young in the Utah Summer League. Then, after being traded to Memphis in July 2019, Allen was ejected from a Las Vegas Summer League game for back-to-back flagrant fouls on the Boston CelticsGrant Williams.

Contrary to what social media, a Chicago Sun-Times columnist or Bulls coach Billy Donovan might lead you to believe, though, this is not standard operating procedure for Allen as an NBA player. It is just the third flagrant foul of his four-year career and the first flagrant-2, distinguished from a flagrant-1 as unnecessary "and excessive" contact committed by a player against an opponent. 

The Bucks disagreed so strongly with Allen's suspension that they took the rare step of issuing a statement, expressing their objection.

I asked a sampling of scouts and assistant coaches what they thought of both Allen’s foul on Caruso and Allen’s reputation as a dirty player. The views were decidedly mixed on both. 

"I like Grayson, and I hate Caruso," an Eastern Conference scout said. "[Caruso is] always complaining to the refs and scrapping around guys, hacking guys. I don’t know that he’s dirty; he’s just a hack. That’s definitely a really hard foul [by Allen on Caruso], but I feel like it was such a split-second play that he couldn’t have premeditated it. I don’t think it was on purpose."

A Western Conference scout agreed with the part about Allen’s initial intention but stopped there. 

"I don’t think his initial thought was to take Alex down, but when you are making a play on the ball and coming across bodies at that height, nothing really good is going to happen, even if you tie it up," he said. "The fall is going to be off-balance and hard.

"After watching from a closer angle, he does finish off the foul by grabbing A.C.'s arms, basically making sure he hits the deck. I’m glad he got a game but thought, with his history, he might get two."

An assistant coach who has worked with Allen described the foul, on a scale of one to 10, as an 8.7. 

"I really like Grayson, but he can’t help himself," the coach said. "He obviously loves to compete, but he goes too far."

The biggest issue the assistant coach saw was Allen’s seeming lack of remorse. Indications from the Bulls are that Allen never reached out to Caruso afterward, as is considered customary.

"It bothers me that stuff like this doesn’t bother him," the assistant coach said.


If the Jazz appear to be feeling pressure to redeem themselves for last year’s second-round playoff exit after posting the league’s best record, NBA executives say it's in part because the future of star guard Donovan Mitchell in Utah depends on it.

The incessant buzz around the league is that there are those in Mitchell’s circle who believe he is too big of a star for Salt Lake City. Further, some say it’s only a matter of time before he joins former Creative Artists Agency agent and current New York Knicks president Leon Rose. 

"They’re a first-round exit from Donovan being in New York," an Eastern Conference scout said. 

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Nothing has happened this season to dispel the impression the Jazz are a one-trick pony and a step behind the elite teams in the Western Conference. Nullify their 3-point-scoring advantage, and they are eminently beatable. It’s no coincidence that January is the first month this season in which Jazz opponents are averaging more 3s made, and Utah is 4-9 in the new year.

After a 28-9 start this season, the Jazz have dropped to 30-18 and fourth in the conference standings. Going 0-4 so far against the three teams ahead of them — the Warriors, Suns and Grizzlies — isn’t exactly reassuring, either.

Jazz fans are quick to label such rumors as bias against small-market teams, whether by the media or the league, but at this point, that's akin to sticking their fingers in their ears to drown out the noise. 

If Mitchell were to force his way elsewhere, he’d merely be following in the footsteps of Deron Williams and Gordon Hayward, two relatively recent Jazz first-round draft picks who achieved stardom and then bolted.


One Eastern Conference GM has an interesting explanation for why he doesn’t believe the lack of playoff experience for a big chunk of the Warriors’ roster — Jordan Poole, Damion Lee, Gary Payton II and Juan Toscano Anderson have none, and Andrew Wiggins played one series with the Timberwolves — will be a stumbling block. 

"When you go to a place where expectations are so much higher than almost any other place, every game feels like a big game," he said. "It’s the atmosphere in their building and the fact they’re on national TV all the time. It’s just a little different there."


Adjusting to life without veteran point guard Ricky Rubio, who is out for the season after tearing his ACL on Dec. 28, took a minute, but the Cavaliers in general and third-year point guard Darius Garland in particular have found their stride. 

After losing three of their first four without Rubio, Cleveland has gone 8-2. Garland’s shooting and playmaking efficiency have been up and down, but he has been delivering when needed most, with his late 3-pointer in a 95-93 victory over the Knicks on Monday an example.

"He’s grown to where he knows it’s his team," a Cavs source said. 

Asked about the rumor the Cavs might be interested in dealing for the LakersRussell Westbrook to replace Rubio, the source dismissed it, laughing. 

"I had not even heard those rumors," he said.

Ric Bucher is an NBA writer for FOX Sports. He previously wrote for Bleacher Report, ESPN The Magazine and The Washington Post and has written two books, "Rebound," the story of NBA forward Brian Grant’s battle with young onset Parkinson’s, and "Yao: A Life In Two Worlds," the story of NBA center Yao Ming. He also has a daily podcast, "On The Ball with Ric Bucher." Follow him on Twitter @RicBucher.


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