Duke's cause for concern is Grayson Allen's play, not antics

Another episode of "What Will Grayson Allen Do Next?" played Monday night. This time a captive audience witnessed the Duke guard walking through N.C. State's huddle.

Oh the humanity! We better get the hot take launcher ready! Hurry, let's ... never mind. Don't even pretend that was a big deal.

You know what is a big deal? The Wolfpack, led by an incredible performance from Dennis Smith Jr., handed Duke its fifth loss of the season and its fourth in the Blue Devils' last seven games. One of those losses came with Allen sitting after his infamous trip against Elon, but it's not like Allen has been setting the college basketball world on fire since his return.

Allen's averages the last six games: 13.2 points on 41.5 percent shooting (25.0 percent on 3-pointers and 75.7 percent on free throws), 3.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 3.2 turnovers. And the junior has not been much better overall this season.

So what's wrong with Allen? Let's take a look at a few factors that could be affecting his play.

1. Allen has less confidence in his shot.
The numbers jump out right away and are baffling. Allen averaged 21.6 points on 46.6 percent shooting from the field and 41.7 percent shooting from the 3-point line in 2015-16. He's down to 15.1 points on 39.2 percent shooting and 31.6 percent on 3s in 2016-17. This drop has come despite Allen lowering his usage rate from last season (26.8 to 24.8) and getting similar shots.

Allen's shot is a smooth, fluid motion. He catches and shoots on these opportunities in rhythm. It's hard to say there's anything wrong mechanically, so that leaves what's going on above the neck (more on that later).

Consider this: Allen shot less than 30 percent in 2 of 36 games in 2015-16. He's already shot less than 30 percent in 7 of the 18 games in which he's played in 2016-17 (he has taken at least seven shots in such games). Even the best shooters have slumps, but this is not a slump. It's a collapse.

2. Allen is adjusting to his role as a point guard.
Allen took over point-guard duties when he returned for ACC play. The experiment hasn't worked out well thus far because Allen is better suited as a wing scorer.

As one NBA Western Conference scout told Sporting News' Sean Deveney, "(Allen) is still a good line-drive penetrator, but some teams have figured out how to limit that, how to bottle him up as a passer. That is a problem."

That problem becomes clear when opposing defense cut off his driving lane, like Florida did here ...

Or defenders stay between him and the basket, allowing his line-drive momentum to take him away from the rim.

If Allen wants to get his game back on track at Duke and impress NBA scouts, he needs to add more wrinkles to his offensive game. He can keep defenses off balance and open up more scoring opportunities, like he did here against Miami ...

Or he can locate the help defender and force him to commit, leading to a perfect kick-out 3-pointer.

3. Opponents are attacking Allen's individual and Duke's team defense — both of which aren't great.
The Blue Devils aren't scaring anyone when they slap the floor this season. Duke is 104th in the NCAA in field-goal percentage defense (41.9 percent) and has given up an average of 76.6 points per game in ACC play.

Duke's help-side and pick-and-roll defense has been lacking, and while Allen is far from the only culprit, he certainly isn't helping. On this pick-and-roll against Miami, Allen's rotation is nonexistent, leading to an easy bucket.

Against Florida State, Allen helps on penetration after Luke Kennard gets caught on the back of a screener, but Allen completely loses sight of his own man. Instead of chopping his feet on the closeout, he lunges at the shot fake and puts himself in a poor position. The possession ends in a foul.

As mentioned above, the defensive issues aren't specific to Allen. Smith tore up Duke's defense Monday night in pick-and-roll situations.

Duke lacks a shutdown defender, so help-side defense and communication become that much more important. Allen and Kennard aren't ball-stoppers, and young guys like Harry Giles and Jayson Tatum are still learning on the back end.

Giving up bunches of points doesn't allow the Blue Devils to build trust in one another on the defensive end. You're seeing a lot of hands up in the air and heads dropping to the ground. That's only going to continue the frustration of Allen and his teammates.

4. Allen is banged up.
This is the most simple explanation. He suffered a gross finger injury and got cut around his eye against Miami. He suffered an awkward leg injury against Kansas and a toe injury against Appalachian State in November. He got smacked in the face against Louisville. (OK, that last one wasn't that bad.)

It's possible Allen just doesn't feel 100 percent. His shooting was down before the finger injury, but maybe he isn't getting quite the same lift. Maybe he can't push off quite as hard on that first step during a drive or defensive rotation. On the other hand ...

5. Allen is in a bad place mentally, and the person who could help him most isn't available.
This kid is under hyper-intense scrutiny every time he moves on a basketball court. That has to affect you in some way.

Don't take that as an excuse for Allen's past behavior — he has rightfully earned plenty of criticism. But from a basketball perspective, does the thought of getting a flagrant foul or suspension make Allen hesitate? Is he putting extra pressure on himself to the point where it's preventing him from playing his game? Does he actually enjoy being out there?

It would be nice to have Mike Krzyzewski on the bench, but he is still out after back surgery earlier this month. Coach K can't provide that calming voice Allen may need. Jeff Capel is a fine coach, but there's a difference in having Krzyzewski in the huddle.

Whatever the problem(s) may be, Allen needs to get back to being the Allen of last season. Otherwise, the Blue Devils will be leaving this year's bracket earlier than usual.

Getty Images

Grayson Allen got tangled up with NC State players while walking towards Duke's bench

Duke star Grayson Allen’s reputation for tripping players and cheap shots hasn’t exactly made him the most popular player in the ACC.

And while it’s tough to give Allen the benefit of the doubt in most incidents, his run-in with the NC State bench on Monday shouldn’t spark a Grayson Allen controversy. He did nothing wrong.

As Allen made his way to the Duke bench, he got tangled with NC State’s Terry Henderson. Allen tried to break free and sort of pushed off, but this was the sort of thing that happens from time to time in basketball games. But because it was Allen, it immediately becomes another instance of dirty play.

If anything, it just showed how disliked Allen is by his opponents. Henderson and Abdul-Malik Abu were extremely upset with Allen who didn’t bother to turn around.

No fouls were called for the incident.

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