Name: Jalen Green
Dominant Hand: Right
Weight: 180 lbs
Last Played: G-League Ignite
ESPN Top 100 Ranking: 2
When the G-League announced its incubation of the G-League Ignite – a team created to give the best high school basketball prospects an alternative route to college basketball, where they would be able to earn up to $500,000 in salary, Jalen Green was one of the first players to sign himself up.
Playing in the G-League, Green shared the court with NBA veterans such as Jarrett Jack and Amir Johnson. He learned how to operate in an NBA-level system under head coach Brian Shaw, and he was able to compete against tougher, more physical grown men. This was exacerbated by the fact that as an 18-year-old who was guaranteed a spot in the NBA, Green had a target on his back, because his competition in the G-League felt as though they were more deserving of an NBA contract, as Jarrett Jack explains below.
By overcoming this physicality in the G-League throughout the whole season, Green proved to scouts that his skills will translate to the next level, despite his wiry frame. Oddsmakers, such as horus casino review, tend to stand in agreeance, with some saying that Green could be drafted as high as #2 overall.
As for how Green’s first year living away from his family helped him develop as a person, he told The Undefeated back in January, “A lot has changed since high school, we’re out here on our own. I’ve been out here on my own since August [of 2020]. Still talk to my family, check in, see how they’re doing. It’s been different, but it’s been a great opportunity for me to grow up and just take over my own business with basketball, learning as much as I can, and just know my surroundings, be really aware of what is around me and what’s going on. So, it’s been a blessing to come do this because a lot of people, a lot of 18-year-olds would love to be in this position. We just got to carry ourselves like a professional.”
We know that the Raptors look for more than just talent when they’re scouting: they look for maturity, work ethic, and character. How a young player will fit the Raptors culture is equally important to how they will fit the Raptors system, if they are going to have an illustrious career North of the border. Based on Green’s interviews, his demeanor, and the maturity that he’s gained from playing professional basketball at such a young age, he seems to fit Toronto’s mold.
I’ve already touched a fair bit on Green’s experience, but his maturity is more than an asset to his character; it also provides an aspect of proven-ness to his game. There are often players who have illustrious college basketball careers but struggle to find success in the NBA. For proof, look no further than the third overall pick in 2015, Jahlil Okafor, or the 2017 NCAA College Men’s Basketball Naismith Player of the Year Award winner, Frank Mason. This is often due to changes in the level of competition that players face in the NBA, an increased level of physicality that they see, or an all-around faster-paced style of basketball. For players like Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Daishen Nix, or Isaiah Todd, who all played for the G-League Ignite, these concerns are less prominent, since they’ve already shown that they’re capable of contributing to a professional team.
Green is easily one of the most athletic players in this year’s draft class. He has an explosive leap and can get off the floor using either one or two legs. He’s also not afraid to take contact around the rim despite his slight frame. He has an uber-quick first step and can blow by defenders with ease, plus he is a nightmare in transition with the ability to outpace just about anybody down the court. Green did not attend the NBA Draft Combine, so his exact agility measurements are unknown, however you can still see his uncanny leaping and running abilities from the clips below.
With Green’s hangtime and unique ability to contort his body around the rim, he’s great at getting shots off over taller defenders inside the paint. While it appears as though Green is always going to fly in for the poster dunk, he’s good at leveraging his finesse in order to take the best shot possible. In 15 games with the Ignite last season, Green shot an astounding 69.1% within five feet of the basket. As Green continues to add some muscle to his frame, he should become an even better finisher around the basket. See below for examples of his stellar finishing ability.
Three-Level Scoring and Shot Creation
Further to Green’s ability to drive the lane and finish at the rim, his potential to develop into an elite three-level scorer is what makes him so intriguing. There are few non-All-Star players in the NBA who are efficient at scoring beyond the arc, in the mid-range, and at the rim, and Jalen Green has the potential to excel in all three areas.
In order to drive the ball inside, Green relies heavily on his quickness to get by his primary defender. Given how freakily quick he is, this does not project to be a problem for him at the next level, however his ability to break down the defense using his handle remains an area for improvement. More on this below.
Despite only shooting 35.3% from the mid-range this season, he has shown flashes being able to score with a pull-up or step-back in the mid-range, and his near-83% free-throw percentage indicates that he’s capable of becoming a more efficient scorer from that range if he can slow his game down. When Green shoots from the mid-range, he far prefers to take a set shot as opposed to a floater. Though 15 games last season, Green only shot a total of six floaters.
From deep, Green also shot 36.5% on 5.7 attempts per game, although 80.6% of these looks from deep came off assists. In order to develop into a true primary option for a contending team, Green will need to improve his ability to create these looks for himself – which is something that he began to show toward the end of last season. See below for examples of Green’s scoring prowess.
As a factor of Green’s playmaking ability not being ‘all the way there’ just yet, he’ll likely find himself playing off the ball more often than not – at least during his first couple seasons in the NBA. As a result of Green’s ability to run his defenders into screens, position himself well on the weak-side, or time his cuts near-perfectly, this should not be too much of a hindrance to his scoring numbers. Similarly to how the Phoenix Suns have masterfully used Mikal Bridges in this year’s playoffs to constantly curl off pin-downs or make back-door cuts to wreak havoc for the defense, Green could be used in a similar role early in his career, and would be capable of doing even more with the ball once he catches it. See examples of Green’s ability to play off-ball and make timely cuts below.
Not a Strength, But Not There Just Yet
Although Green isn’t as good of a passer as Jalen Suggs or Cade Cunningham are, he does not necessarily have to be since he projects to find most of his minutes on the wing. Still, with the development that Green showed last season making good decisions out of the pick-and-roll, the team that drafts him could certainly look to use him as a secondary ball-handler. Despite his lowly 1.03 assist-to-turnover ratio, Green had several passes last season that demonstrated his vision and his ability to find the open teammate when the defense collapsed on him. Making more efficient passes out of these situations will be another area for improvement, however what’s important to note is Green’s unselfishness. Often, with uber-talented scorers like Green, they will succumb to the paradox that whichever shot they take is the best shot that their team can get. Green exhibits that even as his team depends on him more to score the ball, he is always looking to find the best shot for his team, as can be seen from the videos below.
One of the most frustrating things to see as a basketball purist is watching a player who has all the physical tools necessary to be a great defender exhibit no effort on that end of the floor. Green does not fall into this category. He leverages his insane athleticism well on defense, but still lacks the focus to be great on that side. His lateral quickness is solid, although there’s still some room for improvement in terms of how locked in he is on staying in front of his opponent, especially on closeouts and when navigating around screens. On top of that, he angles his body well to stay in front of opponents, and although he is not very strong just yet, he’s always willing to give opponents some contact when they’re driving to the hoop. Although Green’s defense isn’t near All-NBA level, he expressed his desire to ESPN’s Mike Schmitz to become known as more of a two-way player than just a scorer, and he’s certainly put in enough effort on that end of the floor this past year to earn that title. See examples of Green’s on-ball defense below.
As aforementioned, Green relies heavily on his quickness to blow by the first line of defense, which bodes well for him since he has so much of it. Still, in order to truly develop into an all-around scoring superstar at the next level, he will need to learn how to operate and escape out of double teams, or figure out how to shake the best defenders in the NBA so that he can create enough space to get his shot off. In the rare instance where Green’s defender was able to keep up with him off his first step, Green often seemed frazzled and would lose the ball upon getting bumped, or would pick up his dribble in traffic as opposed to using an escape dribble. See examples of Green’s need to improve his handle below.
Gone are the days where only the big men play in the post. In order for Green to be able to defend true threes in the NBA, and hopefully even switch onto some small-ball fours, he will need to get in the weight room. Given that he’s the youngest player out of the consensus top-four, this is not too much of a concern, and more so of an area for improvement. Last year, between the end of the college season and the NBA Draft, Stanford’s (and now the Dallas Mavericks’) Tyrell Terry had added 15-pounds of muscle. Even Giannis Antetokounmpo was able to transform himself from a skinny teenager into a freak of nature in the paint once he made it to the NBA. As long as Green has the work ethic (which it seems like he does), this weakness in his game should be eliminated fairly quickly.
The key things to note with Jalen Green are his athleticism and scoring ability. More so than any other prospect in this year’s draft, Green has the potential to be a microwave scorer who can average 28 points per game in his sleep, if all goes right for him. With his current frame and skillset, he projects to be a freakily athletic, shot-creating, iso-heavy, scoring wing, and as a result of that, his best NBA comparisons would fall along the lines of Zach Lavine, or Andrew Wiggins.