You know about Jalen Green. He was once the top high school prospect of his class whose highlights mixtape might have popped up in your social media feeds at least once.
Green is arguably the best Filipino-blooded prospect ever, projected to be a top pick in the 2021 NBA Draft loaded with many potential franchise-altering talents.
The NBA's project
One thing we'll continue hearing about Green is his trailblazing path to the league. Green, along with Jonathan Kuminga, were the first two top prospects to join the NBA's Ignite program. As of now, players still can't go directly from high school to the NBA. In the past, prospects had two choices before being Draft-eligible: spend a year in college or an overseas pro league.
Ignite aims to become the third and most viable option for prospects, who want to turn pro early and still stay on track with their development by playing in the G-League. The college game in the States is vastly different from the NBA, while foreign leagues don't always foster great environments for the development of a young player. With Ignite, the league tailors the ideal path for a prospect by surrounding them with NBA-level coaches and veterans, while competing against G-League teams filled with fringe NBA players on a pro-level salary.
In the end, going through Ignite benefitted Green’s draft stock more than hurt it.
Green is an electric scorer. He's probably the best scoring prospect not just in this Draft, but probably since Andrew Wiggins. Imagine a player with Wiggins' easy athleticism, De'Aaron Fox’s quickness, and the fluid jump shot mechanics and perimeter scoring of Paul George. That’s how vast Green's offensive arsenal is at 19 years old.
And he did this against near NBA-level defenders, not just players his age in the ongoing NCAA tournament who are also prospects. Green averaged 17.9 points in 15 G-League games on 46.1 percent shooting. He also shot 36.5 percent from deep and 82.9 percent at the line, all impressive efficiency numbers for a young player given the reins of the offense. Green is what scouts call a three-level scorer: someone who can make 3s, drain mid-range jumpers, and get to the basket on any possession. He already unleashes a myriad of crossovers, step-backs, and side-steps to either create a 3-point look or find a path to the basket. He also has the ability to maneuver well around contact at the rim, allowing him to get lay-ups or draw fouls.
There isn't a more exciting prospect in the Draft this year than Green. His high school dunk mixtape rivals that of guys like Seventh Woods or Wiggins. He’s easily translated his leaping ability to the G-League to the point where even his misses are highlight-worthy.
But probably the best thing Green has going for him is how coachable he was in Ignite. While his peers in college are learning more rigid systems in a much slower game, Green got coached by Brian Shaw, an NBA champion with the Los Angeles Lakers. He's a step ahead in learning different terminologies NBA teams use and he knows what to expect in terms of training and preparation at the next level.
The next step
Though he is an elite offensive talent, Green showed that he still lacks other skills needed from a team's lead playmaker. Green averaged 2.8 assists with 2.7 turnovers with Ignite. He often had trouble passing out of double-teams or when running into traffic in the paint. He’ll need to learn the advanced passes perimeter stars use to keep the offense moving, like kick-outs to corner shooters or passes to bigs off screen plays.
While he's listed at 6-foot-6, scouts have noted that Green looks closer to 6-foot-4. He's wiry at 180-pounds and will need to add muscle to keep up in the NBA. Adding weight should not only help Green finish through contact, but it will also unlock a defensive niche for him. Currently, Green can probably cover smaller point guards, but he will struggle trying to defend the league's bigger wings.
For much of his career, Green has been successful overwhelming his competition with his speed and athleticism. He won't get away with that quite as often in the NBA. Getting into a system that will teach him to slow down and improve his basketball IQ will be crucial for Green's career.
Green is one of four prospects scouts see as potential NBA All-Stars. As of writing, Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham is the consensus top pick in most mock drafts for his all-around game and tantalizing physical tools. University of Southern California’s Evan Mobley is seen as the next-best prospect, drawing comparisons to a young Kevin Garnett and Christian Wood.
The debate begins at the third spot with scouts juggling between Green and Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs. While not as exciting a scorer as Green, Suggs is seen as a big point guard in the NBA, who is as tall as Green but has the passing chops, muscular frame, and game feel that Green lacks. More analysts are excited about Suggs, given his contributions to Gonzaga's current undefeated run in college basketball, as the third pick of the draft. Green's Ignite teammate Kuminga is the fifth-best prospect on most draft boards, but is touted more as a project than a polished product.
Basing off standings as of posting time, the Detroit Pistons, Orlando Magic, and Cleveland Cavaliers have the third, fourth, and fifth worst records in the league, respectively. The ideal situation for Green is that he goes to a team with an experienced point guard running the offense so he can learn to become more of an off-ball threat early in his career, easing him into ball-handling duties.
The closest comparison scouts have for Green is Zach LaVine – a similarly bouncy athlete who has developed into the Chicago Bulls' main offensive threat. It's important to note that LaVine also came into the league as a scrawny 19-year old and only made the All-Star team this year, his seventh NBA season.
Green should be expected to take a similar development path. It takes years for players to healthily add muscle and even longer to master the NBA game. It is rare for a player to be great from Day 1. The great thing about Green is he seems willing to work to maximize his potential.