More important than a prospect's potential or talent is where they land in the draft. After last week’s NBA Draft Lottery, we got a bit more clarity about how this year's draft could potentially shape up, and most importantly for us Pinoys, where Jalen Green could possibly end up.
Where Green lands in the draft could dictate how the rest of his career goes. The 6-foot-4 Filipino-American guard has been tagged as a phenomenal offensive talent with already pro-level shooting, ball-handling, and athleticism.
Still, Green will need to find a place with the right combination of patience, veteran leadership, and organizational culture for him to become an offensive force.
The following is a list that ranks the best destinations for Green based on the lottery. With the NBA Draft still a month away, the lottery order could still change. But this ranking of teams within the top eight could serve as a guide of where we should root for Green to go.
After a turbulent season of injuries and not playing in their own home court, the Raptors got reparations in the form of moving up to fourth in the draft when they were projected to get the eighth.
Toronto is unlike most teams in the lottery since they still have a roster that can contend for a high playoff seed in the East, even without getting a good pick in the draft. Kyle Lowry’s contract situation notwithstanding, the Raptors have solid, relatively young players at each position.
Still, getting a potential superstar in Jalen Green would be awesome for Toronto, even if Green won’t be a star right away. Think of this potential situation as the Denver Nuggets getting Michael Porter Jr. in 2018. Porter was brought along slowly by the Nuggets, who had veterans like Will Barton and Paul Millsap playing ahead of him while he recuperated from a back injury. Porter slowly rose to where he is now in the Nuggets depth chart – a key starter on a team that went to the West Conference Finals last year and the second round this year.
Green potentially playing a bench role for the Raptors should not be seen as a bad thing, especially since he gets to learn from veterans like Fred VanVleet. Nick Nurse would also keep a keen eye on Green’s defense, one of the 19-year-old's biggest weaknesses.
He won't likely win Rookie of the Year with the minutes he would get in Toronto, but going to a team with a proven track record of developing talent like OG Anunoby and Pascal Siakam would do wonders for Green in the long-term.
It's unlikely that Green falls all the way to fifth in this draft, but the Magic definitely should explore all possibilities of picking Green if he's available at fifth or by trading up as they also have the eighth pick.
Green would immediately be a starter on a Magic squad looking to rebuild with some foundational pieces already on the roster. The returning Jonathan Isaac and sophomore Chuma Okeke will provide the Magic with plenty of versatility in the forward positions. Markelle Fultz and Cole Anthony are both solid playmaking point guards.
Having Green as the starting shooting guard gives the Magic an offensive option that they have failed to draft after years in the lottery. Green’s raw defensive ability and playmaking can easily be covered up by the rest of the Magic’s young core.
Oklahoma City Thunder
Sam Presti’s trove of draft picks may easily allow him to move up from sixth in this draft to around third to select Green, if the Thunder see Green as a foundational piece.
On paper, the Thunder need all the talent they can get, but like the Magic, they already have some interesting pieces that should ease Green’s transition to the NBA game. Playing alongside a playmaking point guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander would allow Green to focus on getting his own shots and slowly developing the complex passing IQ needed to run an NBA offense.
The Thunder also have a solid defensive core in Lu Dort, Darius Bazley, and Gilgeous-Alexander to assign Green to more favorable defensive matchups where he won’t be too overwhelmed early.
There will be plenty of turnover on this OKC roster for the foreseeable future. The lack of veteran players will always be a challenge for rebuilding teams as they strive to establish a culture. Still, if Green lands on the Thunder, he should be in a pretty good spot to develop at a reasonable pace.
Golden State Warriors
The Warriors having the seventh pick in the draft makes this very unlikely, unless Golden State sees any benefit in trading up.
Green, in reality, will mostly struggle at Golden State in his first year. The Warriors have a proven, egalitarian system that pushes every player to the limit when it comes to ball and man movement.
That's going to be a tough adjustment for any rookie, especially for someone like Green who has been used to scoring in one-on-one scenarios and having offenses tailored for him.
Still, getting to play with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, two of the most efficient scorers ever, should only benefit a prospect, who has been described as very coachable by his G League Ignite mentor Brian Shaw. Green might find himself coming off the bench and looking lost for certain stretches of his rookie year. But once he clicks with the Warriors system, he’ll be set for the rest of his NBA career, knowing he can play with and without the ball.
It should also help that the Bay Area is home to a large concentration of the Filipino community in the United States. Having the highest picked Filipino play there seems only fitting.
Houston Rockets/Cleveland Cavaliers
The two teams with the best chance to pick Green with where they are in the draft sit here in the rankings. Both teams are on different stages of a rebuild and still need a potential superstar on their roster, so they will likely take the best available talent.
The Rockets at No. 2 have an interesting decision to make. USC center Evan Mobley has been tagged as the second best prospect in the draft, but plays very similarly to the Rockets' newly signed big Christian Wood. Mobley and Wood are versatile enough to share the court, but neither are capable of defending the big bruising centers of some Western Conference contenders like Nikola Jokic or Anthony Davis. Houston could pick Jalen Green if they feel they are good with Wood for the long-term.
Cleveland, on the other hand, will need to make tough decisions with their current backcourt in Colin Sexton and Darius Garland to fully maximize picking Green. Sexton broke out last season, but the Cavaliers may be reluctant to sign him to a long-term deal this offseason with the possibility of drafting Green. A Sexton-Garland-Green lineup also has plenty of skill overlap, which could just stunt the growth of all players involved.
Regardless of how either team navigates the offseason, Green would have plenty of opportunity on either the Cavs or Rockets. It's more a question of being given too much, too soon. Very few players can come in and immediately be the focal point of an offense, even a rebuilding one. There are plenty of risks with trusting a rookie to create a chunk of his own and his teammates’ shots.
It would be best for Green to come in a situation where he gets playing time and learns the NBA game at his pace.