During the Sixers-Celtics replay this afternoon, the announcers (Dick Stockton, Mike Fratello, and Chris Webber) were discussing Lavoy Allen‘s rise to relevance. Fratello specifically noted he was a four-year player out of Temple who had questions about his “motor” coming into the draft and how it was a bit of a surprise that he was actually drafted.
When people mention the phrase “lack of a motor” in draft reports, it becomes a major red flag to fans and front office executives. In fact, when the Sixers drafted Marreese Speights back in 2008, that was the major criticism. He was immensely talented offensively, with 20 foot range and the potential to develop more, and good size. He had good hands and the physical tools to be great. But Speights lacked the almighty motor – he underachieved at Florida during his time there.
Those concerns would be well-founded during his time with the Sixers, though much of his failure was not of his own doing. A crippling knee injury robbed him of explosiveness and helped him pack on some pounds, and after getting playing time taken away from him uopn struggling he began to lose confidence and motivation. He would come into camp and workouts overweight. He would stop trying on defense. He would become a selfish player. And that’s why he lost favor with his coaches. With a fresh start in Memphis, he started playing well again, though his defensive deficiencies will ultimately hold him back from being a long-term starter. His “motor” concerns were that he had to be sufficiently motivated in order to play at his best. They manifested themselves in a time of adversity, and his tenure with the Sixers will be remembered for those.
Allen came into the pros (I originally had town, but then I realized he only had to take the subway down to the Sports Complex) without any expectations. He wasn’t expected to be drafted, because he didn’t produce at a star level at a non-BCS school. For four years he produced, but didn’t have eye-catching numbers that many thought he should have had. He was given the “lack of a motor” label because it seemed that he didn’t aspire to become the best, a dominant player in a lesser conference. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t try hard all the time. He always wanted to win.
And the lack of trying is what most people associate with a “motor”. Lavoy didn’t have that problem. He never had that problem. His problem was passivity. He wasn’t the go-to guy at Temple because that’s not how he operates. Instead, he was perfectly okay with being a facilitator, rebounder, and defender. He scored when called upon, but his team had plenty of players who already looked to score. He looked to make them better. He wanted to win, and was completely unselfish in doing so. Qualities that would make an excellent NBA role player, not a star.
He combines those qualities with NBA-level skills. He has range out to 18 feet, good hands and touch around the rim, and excellent post defense. He’s a willing passer and a talented one at that. He’s gotten stronger since his Temple days, too, which helps that post defense even more. Seriously, he’s near-immovable down there.
Unfortunately, the scouting reports see the production versus the potential, and say “motor” must be the issue. The “motor” stigma did help Lavoy drop to the Sixers, though the middling collegiate production and his draft profile helped land him the spot as ESPN’s worst NBA player, Mr. 500. So far, he’s proven to be much better than that. He belongs, and his motor works just fine.