How Good Will He Be:
("Cards to Pick Up" is below)
Following a tumultuous season for the Rockets, in which they saw their franchise player James Harden force his way out of town, the most recent NBA draft serves as a sort of saving grace for both the franchise and the fans. The Rockets were lucky enough to jump to the second pick in the lottery and used it to snag the young G-League guard, Jalen Green.
Jalen Green is a 19-year-old guard who has a listed height of 6’5”, a listed wingspan of 6’7”, and a weight of roughly 185. Green chose to play in the G-League in lieu of attending college, mainly so he could make a salary and focus more intensely on his already advanced game. Over the course of 16 regular season and playoff G-League games, Green averaged around 18 points, 4 rebounds, and 3 assists, so it was no surprise that he had a spectacular performance in his summer league play. In summer league, Green was putting up just over 20 a game on 51/52/92 shooting splits, albeit in very limited time given his injury against the Raptors. In his short time on the floor, he was able to show glimpses of why he was widely considered one of the three best players in the draft.
Going into the season, Green has a lot to prove if he wants to be considered the first, or even the second or third, best player from this loaded draft class. There has never really been a question about his athleticism, handles, and ability to make tough shots, but areas of improvement such as playmaking, turnovers, and outside shooting signal that there is much work to be done if he’s going to be one of the best players in the league, as many projected. Below I have separated his highlights with analysis into the two following overarching sections: Elite/NBA-Ready Skills and Areas of Improvement. From here, I have broken these sections into categories pertaining to the skills I believe he excels at, and some skills of his I feel could be improved upon.
One of Jalen Green’s most outstanding traits, and main reasons he was a consensus top-3 pick, is his explosiveness and athleticism. Time and time again, in both the G-League and Summer League, Green showcased athletic abilities that would definitely be considered NBA-Ready and maybe even elite. This clip showcases Green’s jumping ability and control in the air while under duress from a nearby defender.
Dunks like this are what you may expect out of a player like Ja Morant, but this level of athleticism does not come often. Anyone would be hard-pressed to find even 10 NBA guards who could make that play while also making it appear that effortless.
Another utilization of Green’s athleticism that we didn’t get to see much in Summer League is when he chooses to cut towards the basket. Green’s ridiculous hops can often spell trouble for defenses that are slow to recognize his cut or that leave the paint exposed. Here you can see Jalen Green take advantage of sloppy transition defense on a cut to the rim.
These type of actions are usually reserved for a wing or big man, but Green’s awareness in transition and ability to leap out of the gym makes it possible. Through pure athletic ability, and continuously taking advantage of lackluster defenses with it, Green is all but guaranteed to find some measure of success at the NBA level. Fortunately, these are not the only elite/NBA-ready skills that Green possesses, raising his developmental floor even higher.
Handles and Footwork
In addition to extraordinary athletic skills, Green has excellent handles and footwork. These skills, when used in symphony, form a synergetic relationship that unlock new levels to his overall game and scoring ability. Green was able to prove in both leagues he played in that his handles and footwork were on an NBA-level, and perhaps even above the average NBA guard. In this clip, Green uses a series of rapid between the leg dribbles to lull the defender into a bad position. Once he feels he has an opening, he accelerates rapidly to the left as if he’s going to drive to the basket. Due to Green’s athleticism and speed, he forces the defender to retreat back rapidly. Green then quickly decides to give the defender a slight bump, which allows him to take and make a wide-open mid-range shot.
His ability to also use his athleticism in partnership with advanced footwork played a large role in setting him apart from almost any other player from this class. On both jumpers and in the paint, Green has shown a patience and precision in his footwork that has translated to more open looks. In this play, Green gains a slight edge while driving on a defender due to a screen. Instead of barreling forward into a defender waiting for him below the basket, Green uses a stop and go to freeze his out of position defender for an easy basket.
In an NBA game, this shot may be getting sent back, but its still a good sign that plays like this have become an almost routine part of Green’s game. These combined high-level skills have translated into one major skill that Green figures to be a routine league leader in. Scoring.
The most tantalizing area of Green's game is by far his ability to score. Since Green has been playing organized basketball, he has always had a unique ability to score in ways almost any other player could not even fathom and at a much higher clip. He possesses a deep bag of tools and moves, such as step backs, alley-oops, acrobatic layups, and fadeaways, that enable him to score at such a pace. Here he uses one of these moves, Below, is an example of a play where Jalen Green's unique scoring skills allow him to make a play many other could not. Green takes a few jab steps left to create some separation and then explodes towards the rim on the right side. Due to his elite athleticism, he is easily able to gain a foot on his defender, but a help defender from the backside enters the play to contest the shot at the rim. Green, aware of the charging defender, hangs in the air and adjusts his shot to avoid the contest from the defender, resulting in an relatively simple layup.
Greens ability to adjust the ball in the air for an easy layup requires a high level of both athleticism and skills to actually perform. Moves like these will surely result in easy baskets for Green as well as trips to the line due to most defenders' inability to stay in front of him .
Using a similar move to last time, he gives a quick fake right then darts left as soon as he notices the out of position defender. While driving to the paint, Green is confronted with a pair of opposing frontcourt players, but neither one of them is able to faze him. He slices between them jumping through the air and avoiding their long swinging limbs with another impressive finish at the cup.
This ability at the rim has lent Jalen Green an efficiency that most players have no hopes of reaching. Defenders in many instances are left guessing when defending him and often times have to concede room in order not to get burnt. This constant battle between the pressure and space of Green's defenders can additionally allow for more open looks off the dribble, which helps unlock the shooting aspect of his scoring ability. When Green notices a defender sagging off of him, he is able to make them pay fairly consistently with smooth footwork and a quick shot off the dribble.
His ability to sink these long-range jumpers off the dribble will play a large factor in determining how impactful Green will be to his team's long-term success. These shots, when hit consistently, strike fear into the opposing defense. If Green is able to further improve upon his shooting, and pairs that skill with his already impressive interior scoring, he could easily be one of the top 3-5 pure scorers in the league.
Areas of Improvement
Playmaking and Turnovers
One of the main areas Jalen Green will focus on improving over the course of his first NBA season is making strides towards improving his playmaking as a ballhandler while limiting the amount of unforced turnovers. There are no doubts about Green's ability as a scorer, but can he become more than that? From what we have seen so far, Green has a tendency to become a black hole when he has the ball. In the G-League, Green averaged 2.8 assists compared to 2.7 turnovers, which isn't necessarily ideal. While assists are far from a perfect indicator for a player's ability to make plays, but we have seen him often opt for a contested shot in lieu of passing it out to an open teammate. While this can be good given Green is such a talented scorer at all 3 levels, there are more efficient shots to be found by passing to teammates who may be open due to Green's defenders often needing help from others.
If Green isn't ever able to harness a grip on an ability to make plays and pass at a high level, then he will still be an outstanding NBA player due to his scoring ability. The downside would be that Green likely could not carry a team as their number one option. For Green to improve upon this, learning how to make reads as a primary ball handler and using his skills to advantage in the passing game will be key areas that need to be addressed. If these areas are given attention in training, it could presumably lead to his ascension as a player. If he is ever able to attain the ability to be a team's primary initiator, he would become a player capable of being the franchise cornerstone and number one option on a championship team.
Summarized Player Projection
When looking at the long-term potential of Jalen Green, its hard not to be excited about the future in Houston. He possesses a lot of the explosiveness that Ja Morant does, lending for some similar dunks and layups, while also possessing a higher level of shooting than Ja. Green's ceiling as a scorer is truly the sky and it will be interesting to see how much his game expands beyond that area. If he is able to take those steps in his game, he has the ability to become as dynamic an offensive player as Luka Doncic. I think at worst, Green becomes a hyper-efficient Jordan Clarkson type of player, but I believe the most likely outcome is a player similar to the Zach Lavine we saw last year in 2020. A super athletic two guard who also is able to the shoot the ball efficiently at every level, but struggles to get their teammates involved in a primary ballhandling role. Regardless of which of the outcomes become true, Green will still be a difference maker for the Rockets for many years.
Similar level of player to Luka Doncic
Similar to Zach Lavine
More efficient Jordan Clarkson
What Cards to Pick Up:
Jalen Green's tenure in the NBA has not been very long and in turn, his current card market is fairly sparse due to the lack of sets released to date. Green should be a collectible player through his first season, so even his early cards not in an NBA uniform will retain value for a period of time. My favorite card you can pick up of Jalen Green right now is his G-League Ignite card by Generation Next. It's a simple design that resembles many classic sets, which I think will help boost its popularity, and it is relatively inexpensive, selling for around $7 in raw condition.
Another intriguing option will be his first Panini licensed set, Chronicles, which will release on September 29th. Chronicles will feature 13 different sets with players in their non-professional uniforms, but Green's cards should still retain value for some time until more releases arrive. I personally do not like paying a lot for cards or sets that just release and also feature non-professional uniforms because I feel like I can get a better deal at a later date, but every collector has different goals. If you are waiting for more of Green's cards to hit the market, I would advise waiting for most of this years products to release. After that, I would focus on Tier 2 sets like Opulence, Impeccable, and Noir. Green will undoubtedly have a strong market from day one, so it will be important to find value in cards that are still unique and, in almost all cases, possess on-card autographs. If you find these sets are still out of your price range, then I would consider focusing on less expensive on-card autograph products like Spectra, Encased, or the Court Kings Fresh Paint insert.
Best Type of Green Cards to Buy:
On-Card Autographs of Court Kings, Encased, or Spectra
High-End Green Cards to Buy:
Patch Autographs or On-Card Autographs of Opulence, Impeccable, or Noir