One of two major prospects in this draft who came from the G League Ignite program – an alternative to college that allows top high school recruits to go to the G League and prepare themselves for the NBA Draft there – Jalen Green is a 19-year-old dynamo with, possibly, the potential to become the best player in this draft.
A super athletic guard prospect with excellent size, Green has the measurables that make talent evaluators eyes bug out and has tangible proof of what his explosive first step and above-the-rim style of play might look like at the NBA level.
Green was the No. 1 high school recruit in the class of 2020, according to ESPN, but opted to forgo collegiate basketball in favour of the new opportunity afforded to top high school recruits in the NBA G League, with the new G League Ignite team, a special development-focused squad that’s composed of a combination of elite prospects and NBA veterans where those prospects will get paid, get a year to learn a more pro-style system of hoops as well as both life skills mentorship and an academic scholarship to boot.
This past season was the Ignite’s first and it afforded Green to learn from and play alongside NBA veterans like Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson, while competing against grown men as part of the 15-game, bubble-site G League season this season where performed well, even going off for 30 points against Raptors 905 in the playoffs.
Before the draft lottery, Green was most commonly seen going at No. 4, but with the Rockets getting No. 2 and the positional conflict with presumed No. 2 prospect Evan Mobley with Christian Wood, in addition to Houston’s need for a dynamic, star-potential player to replace James Harden, Green has shot up to No. 2 on most mock drafts because he fits the bill of a possible all-star wing scorer in the making.
Here’s a little more on Green and why he appears to be moving up into the top two.
Position: Shooting guard
Height: Six-foot-six | Weight: 180 lbs
2020-21 stats PPG: 17.9 | RPG: 4.1 | APG: 2.8 | 3P%: 36.5
Electric scoring potential
The reason why Green could eventually end up as the best player from this year’s draft is because no other prospect has as much promise to become a legitimate go-to scorer the way Green appears to.
He has an intoxicating blend of off-the-charts athleticism, size (if/when he fills out more) and, most importantly, shooting ability.
If you’re favourite brand of basketball is ABA-style rainbow threes and big dunks, then Green is the prospect for you.
He shot a respectable 36.5 per cent from three on 85 attempts in the G League last season and was an 82.9 per cent free-throw shooter, a solid indicator that he’s already a good shooter with sound mechanics, transferable to any level of the game.
Additionally, he’s got a tight handle and, theoretically, with his elite ability to explode off the dribble and stop on a dime, he should be able to create any shot for himself, anywhere on the floor, particularly because when he elevates to shoot he should be able to do so overtop of just about anyone because he gets great elevation on his jumper, and he has the awareness to correct his balance if he’s fading away or to the side, particularly off his pet stepback move.
Lastly, despite his slight frame, Green didn’t shy away from contact in the G League and seemed able to take a bump in the air and still find ways to finish.
This all equates to a player with the potential to score in bunches at all three levels, and is a significant reason why he’s apparently moved up the board. The goal of the game remains to get buckets, and Green can do that.
Could mold into a solid combo guard
The most encouraging indicator of Green’s long-term NBA future in the G League was the strides he appeared to take as a primary ball-handler and playmaker.
Chances are Green will never be a true lead guard, but he could develop into a solid scoring combo guard who can bring the ball up and get his team into the offence at some point and that’s because he’s shown already that he can work the pick-and-roll a bit.
At this stage in his career, as the ball-handler in screen-and-roll actions he’s more limited to looking to hunt for his own shot or to making just one read, but it’s definitely a skill the young man has apparently been working to improve upon, something that could pay huge dividends in the future, if the way players like Bradley Beal and DeMar DeRozan have turned out having become better passers and more adept in pick-and-roll situations as the ball-handler.
Putting the ball in the basket will likely always be Green’s primary role on a basketball team, but that he recognizes he’ll need to find ways to get his teammates involved already at such a young age bodes well for his future potential as a star.
His potential is immense, but he feels riskier than other top prospects
For all of his talents, Green feels like the biggest boom-or-bust prospect among the top names in the draft.
Though he’s tall and has shown he can take some contact, his slender frame does come with some legitimate strength concerns, particularly on the defensive end.
In the modern NBA, two guards are expected to be able to defend point guards, wings and even some small-ball power forwards, particularly as those kind of players are more wont to hunt for mismatches against wings.
Green, right now, doesn’t have the strength to do all of that. At best, he’ll be able to stick with smaller, quicker guards because he does have the athleticism and lateral quickness to do so, but that’s only if he stays locked in on defence.
He has a tendency to use his hands too much trying to get deflections and steals, as opposed to staying solid in his stance. Additionally, he’ll leave himself exposed by attempting to play passing lanes too often.
But it’s not only defence that Green shows some bad flaws, another area is the fact that while he has all the potential in the world to be a good shooter, he’s very streaky, in both ways.
On one hand, he could catch fire and bury a team, and on the other, he could go cold and shoot his own team out of it because he doesn’t have much conscience in terms of shot selection. He’ll fire away whenever and wherever, something that’s great if he does end up a star, but could quickly see him out of the league if he doesn’t pan out.