Nets’ Jordan-Allen center pairing went from worry to boon

From the moment the Nets added DeAndre Jordan this summer, the center position could’ve gone sideways. Instead it’s been a strength.

Jarrett Allen could’ve chafed at the competition or seen his development stunted. Jordan could’ve sulked over being a reserve or fallen off a cliff like he seemed poised to do with the Knicks.

But instead of pulling the team apart, they’ve pushed each other along — and given the Nets their best center situation in years.

There is only one set of teammates in the entire NBA that has cracked the top 10 in effective field goal percentage: Allen and Jordan. The only duo both in the top 10 in rebound percentage? Same pair.

For the injury-riddled Nets, Allen’s emergence and Jordan’s addition have proven a godsend.

“Yeah, I keep saying it: We have depth there that we never had,” coach Kenny Atkinson said as his Nets prepared to host Denver on Sunday. “We have basically two starting centers basically playing.”

Atkinson inherited former All-Star Brook Lopez when he arrived in 2015-16, but the latter had little around him and nothing behind him. Allen and Jordan give the Nets a 1-2 punch.

Jarrett Allen (l) and DeAndre Jordan
Jarrett Allen (l) and DeAndre JordanNBAE via Getty Images

As Brooklyn’s centers prepared to host Nuggets star Nikola Jokic on Sunday, they come into that matchup first in the league in shooting percentage (66.9) and fifth in rebounding (19.6).

“During the summer, there could’ve been a lot of negative thinking in my head,” Allen admits. “A lot of people saying a lot of negative [stuff].

“But I took it as a positive. They brought him in, and he’s a great person to learn from — first-team All-Defense — he had a great background and I just tried to learn from him as much as I could.”

Bringing Jordan in wasn’t cheap. At four years and $40 million for a player who looked on the decline last season with the Knicks, it was a gamble. And it may be a costly one by the end of that deal. But for the moment — with Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert hurt — the center duo have become a lob-catching menace to defenses.

“We both want to play and we both like dunking the ball. I already saw on Twitter the new Lob City. I don’t know if I’m at the Blake Griffin level, [but] we both want to be out there and play our hardest,” said Allen, who is confident they haven’t reached peak production yet.

“I think so. How we’re playing right now — as a unit, not only me and DeAndre, but everybody else is playing — I think it’s more to come.”

Allen comes into Sunday leading the NBA in shooting and second in dunks, and he caught three in a 14-0 run that earned the Nets a win Friday in Charlotte. He and Jordan combined for 30 points on 13-for-17 shooting and 23 rebounds, the first time they’d both notched double-doubles in the same game.

In the four games since Jordan returned from an ankle injury, their combined 21.8 rebounds are second among all NBA centers. And much of that is Allen’s vastly improved offensive rebounding, following Spencer Dinwiddie and the other guards to the rim on pick-and-rolls.

“He’s figuring out where he can [score], what this league is about, what our system’s about,” Atkinson said. “When you improve your physical abilities [it helps]. He’s gotten stronger, credit to how hard he’s worked in the weight room. … He’s gotten more consistent.

“And then he’s finally realizing when we go to the rim, we miss a fair amount. My coach in college used to say [to] guys that used to complain about getting the ball — 60 percent come off the rim: Go and get it. Instead of drawing up a play for you, you could always go and get that thing off the rim, so he’s finally figured that out.”

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