“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Jalen Green is a 19-year-old wing from Merced, California, who averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists in his rookie season for the NBA G League Ignite. He is expected to be selected among the top-4 picks in the upcoming NBA Draft and as high as No. 1 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 3.
Remember when JR Smith hit the recruiting scene in the early 2000s? Some of this site’s younger readers might only know JR Smith as LeBron James’ friend who didn’t wear a shirt for nine consecutive months after the Cleveland Cavaliers won the title in 2016 and then LeBron James’ nemesis who blew Game 1 of the 2018 NBA Finals.
But for those who remember when JR Smith hit the circuit around 20 years ago, there was nothing quite like him. He seemed like the rare kind of prospect who could eventually win an NBA Slam Dunk contest, an NBA 3-Point Shootout, and an All-Star Game MVP all in the same weekend.
This is what flashes to mind when I watch Jalen Green.
Green is, quite simply, built different. He contorts, explodes, twists, slithers and shakes his way to open shots against any kind of defender. His upside as a one-on-one scorer is unrivaled in this draft. He can hit deep 3s off the catch or off the bounce, and he can attack closeouts with burst and aggression. He isn’t the same kind of court-vision maestro as Cade Cunningham, but Green shows the ability to make plays for others as the lead initiator off the pick and roll. He can slash into the heart of a defense and convert near the rim.
Green also plays with a confidence one rarely sees in a player this age – not a desperate cockiness or a misplaced abundance of flash, but a self-assuredness that comes with knowing one’s skills are on another level.
He has all the measurables to become a top-notch two-way NBA wing and a multi-time All-Star. The sky is the limit.
On a scale from 1-10, Green’s scoring potential rates at a 9.5.
Green is a major talent, but sometimes, he’ll get caught ahead of his skis a bit.
Many of these turnovers or bad shots will likely be ironed out by the time he hits his prime, but Green sometimes plays as if he’s permanently set to “He’s On Fire!” mode in NBA Jam. With great confidence comes great responsibility.
His shooting percentages, especially from deep (36.5%), will improve as his shot selection improves. He relies on his A-level athleticism more than he does on laser-sharp handles or locked-in footwork and fundamentals. He is right-hand dominant and a little predictable. These are all skills that should come with time, should Green morph into one of those “first to the gym, last to leave” type of maniacs.
Like most teenagers, adult players with serious strength can muscle him off his spot. If his shot isn’t falling, his confidence can fall with it. This is all quite typical of any young player, but consistency is going to be key in Green’s overall development.
He knows he can score. But will he lean entirely on his physical gifts to get by, or will he have the internal drive to develop into the well-rounded player many NBA front offices hope he can become?
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Green’s streakiness sits at a 6.
It’s hard for anyone to play much better than Green did as a high schooler.
Just check out his stats from San Joaquin Memorial High School and then what he pulled off in his senior year for Prolific Prep. He scored at will and won pretty much every individual accolade a player can win.
Every program offered him – many of them well before he could take a driving test. He made the decision to skip college ball and earn a quick $500,000 with the G League’s Ignite squad. In years past, this would have been viewed as a step down in competition and as a somewhat controversial decision. However, the G League has beefed up its ability to accommodate those elite talents who don’t want to pursue college and instead prepare for life in the pros.
Green excelled on a Brian Shaw-coached team that also featured NBA mainstays Jarrett Jack, Amir Johnson, Bobby Brown and fellow lottery prospect Jonathan Kuminga. Green spent the better part of a year preparing against pro-level talent. Judging by the tape, it’s clear he belongs alongside the best players in the world.
On a scale from 1-10, Green’s pre-NBA career rates at a 9.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Green’s draft stock has bounced around the top half of the lottery, thanks in large part to his “man of mystery” persona, as Ignite games don’t appear on ESPN as often as Oklahoma State, USC, or Gonzaga. But with serious draft fans now beginning to break down tape and scouting reports, there is talk of Green leapfrogging Evan Mobley and possibly even Cade Cunningham.
It’s this writer’s belief that Cunningham is locked in at No. 1 – either with the Detroit Pistons, or with an eager squad with a deep war chest of draft capital (ahem, Oklahoma City) ready to move into the top overall position. So it comes down to whether the Houston Rockets, sitting at No. 2 overall, want to roll the dice with Green’s scoring upside over Mobley’s more reliable two-way play.
Green appears to be a much cleaner fit on paper for what the Rockets need. With Christian Wood already in the fold, Green’s electrifying scoring ability and one-on-one skills give the Rockets a much-needed boost in those areas. Plus, it would allow Green the opportunity to learn on the job, while positioning the Rockets for yet another top lottery pick (hello, Chet Holmgren).
Should Mobley end up being selected at No. 2, however, the Cleveland Cavaliers would likely jump all over him. The Sexton/Garland backcourt needs a rangy scoring threat to help open up some driving lanes, and Green fits the bill.
Of course, the best possible basketball situation for Green is north of the border, with Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors. Look at what this franchise has done for Pascal Siakam, Fred Van Vleet, OG Anunoby, and so on.
On a scale from 1-10, Green’s situational independence rates at an 8. His talent – particularly at the wing position – is exactly what every franchise craves. But Green is 2-3 years away from realizing his potential. It would be fascinating to see what could happen with him if he found his way onto a squad with legitimate playoff aspirations while he is still on his rookie contract.