With the modern NBA shifting more and more to isolation-focused, pace-and-space basketball, finding true shot creators in the frontcourt has become a premium. As GMs continue to scour the 2021 drafting field for the league’s next lethal scorer, Jalen Green should be a name to familiarize yourself with.
Finishing the class of 2020 as ESPN’s top prospect, Jalen Green hit the recruiting board with no university off-limits — if wanted admission, he was getting in. Green flirted with programs in Kentucky, Memphis, Auburn, and Oregon on official visits, but none of the teams were palatable enough for the McDonalds All-American. Instead, Green shocked the basketball world when in April 2020, he decided to skip the college route altogether — instead, he signed onto join the G-League Ignite for their inaugural season.
As time now shows, that move more than paid off.
Jalen Green fits the NBA’s prototype for a “combo-guard.” Green clocks in at a clean 6-foot-6 at the shooting guard position, but with a 178-pound frame, the former five-star enters a breed of players such as Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Ron Harper as lanky frontcourt pieces who can adjust to the one. Green’s wingspan isn’t orthodox for his height at 6-foot-7 and a half, though with an astounding combination of inches and athleticism — his baseline arm length should not be a point of concern at any stage of his career. Overall, Green’s blend of size, speed, and offensive abilities make him the most polarizing two-guard this draft class has to offer.
+ Explosive Athlete/Finishing Ability
Jalen Green enters the 2021 draft class as one of the most intriguing prospects when attacking the basket. At 19-year-old, Green has received nods anywhere from the likes of Zach Lavine to Ja Morant from an athletic standpoint. Green’s vertical clocks in at an elite level given his frame, and with an innate ability to elevate — posterizers are a common occurrence in his tape.
Green’s zero to one-hundred speed coupled with a quick handle turn his points of entry inside up tenfold. Green can take defenders one-on-one, blow by, and with a small crevice of floor space fly in from well outside the restricted area. In transition, Green is a highlight reel waiting to happen. Green’s snowballing speeds pave the way for dunk contest dunks to lash out at any given moment in the game. Even without the basketball, Green will still be up for liftoff soaring inside for alley-oop dunks both in transition and in the halfcourt.
Barring no injuries, Green will be one of the most athletic players at the two-spot.
+ Excels at Mid-Air Adjustments
Cutting even further in-depth to Green’s athletic capabilities, they show up more than a flashy dunk would let off. Throughout his stint in the G-League, Jalen Green proved that once he escalates on a drive, he can paraglide his way back down, both on dunks and layups.
When leading into contact, Jalen Green puts on a contortionist act. When slashing in from the baseline he often will go up-and-under on a layup before reaching his apex. Running head-on into larger defenders, Green will create initial contact using both elbows to essentially shield his defender from the basketball — as soon as his opposing de-escalates, he’ll go up with a layup which with a soft touch — drops in more often than not.
Even before elevating for a dunk, Green has a knack with special awareness making makes like side-steps over second nature to him.
His explosiveness as an attacker will lead to a plethora of rim-rattling posters throughout his career but his grasp at switching gears into a more conservative, slithery finisher inside (while keeping the same level of bounce) makes him a lethal penetration threat from the jump in competition with the NBA ranks.
+ Quick Handle/ NBA Ready Stepback
Jalen Green’s slashing ability already sneaks in at an All-Star level, but with his quick handle, all dimensions of his offensive game take a major leap.
Green as is already sits in the upper crust of guards in the draft class for initial speed, but his wide array of hasty dribble moves separates him from the pack. In Green’s toolbox, he uses go-to moves with the usages of between-the-leg dribbles, push crosses, stepbacks, and pull-ups to free himself from his man. With his first step, Green already establishes his means of blowing by his defender rather quickly, using that initial gust, turning the corner tends to be a breeze for the guard whether in isolation or coming off a screen.
Using Green’s fast dribble moves, his tight grip on the ball allows him to sputter out moves in succession to try and free himself up if no cavity to the lane presents itself. Green can start with subtle jabs and pump fakes to mediate his defender before striking, but once he starts pushing at the basket, he will then bring in his secondary moves in between the legs moves, pullbacks, and quick stops to drop a backpedaling defender to the floor, or freeze them in space.
Once Green has created his cushion, his third-tier moves with pull-ups and stepbacks head in for the kill shot. Green’s pull-up midrange can be flaky at times but while in a rhythm you might as well tack on two points before he shoots it.
Green’s stepback jumper already aligns with that of All-Star level guards in the league. Using other moves to lead in (such as moving between the legs), Green’s stepback lashes out with a quick strike, allowing for a wide open perimeter shot before his defender can react — as some may say the “Harden Stepback.” Green’s stepback rarely produced any sort of shot contest as for the most part, it was a standard night of shoot-around for the former five-star.
At first glance, Green’s bounce is what creates a “wow factor” of sorts dangling over his head, but his collection of fast-paced dribble moves set the table for all of his on-ball efforts.
+ Creates at Both Levels
As an elite athlete and versatile ball-handler Green puts the whole package together by not only being an on-ball threat driving in the lane — but at all three levels.
Produced by Green’s stepback and pull-up jumpers created off the bounce, he’s able to garner wide open looks at the mid-range and three-point line at a steady rate. When you factor in Green’s jumpshot is both speedy, squared, and hoisted in a fluid motion, the idea of him being a shot creator isn’t farfetched in the slightest.
In driving to the right, Green found his strongest mid-range shot coming off of pull-ups on the right wing, sinking 5-of-11 tries. In all other segments of the deep two, Green’s sample size was either paltry (like the stat above), or coming at an inefficient rate. With Green’s year of competition being so condensed and overall shortened, his overall percentages shouldn’t be the prominent figure, it’s the shot selection. For Jalen Green, his mid-ranges almost always came off the dribble and came wide open.
As a three-point shooter, Green displayed patches of being near unguardable from the perimeter, spewing out games shooting 6-of-8, 5-of-6, and 4-of-9. In those runs, Green used a combination of catch-and-shoot jumpshots and stepbacks generated on his own, but regardless the result was positive. In transitioning over to the next level, creating an open three-point shot off of his stepback should not be an issue, the only matter is consistency.
+ Multi-Dimensional Off-Ball Threat
As detailed above, Jalen Green has the seeds to be one of the league’s premier on-ball threats, but even off-ball, he has shown to be a very multi-dimensional asset.
Following his athletic ability, Jalen Green still contributes off the ball with his athleticism. Green is great at analyzing the weak side of defenses, using his vertical — he makes the defense pay. Green emerged as veteran guard Jarrett Jack’s go-to piece for alley-oops for the Ignite this past season as while Jack would be surveying the floor up top, Green would sprint inside from the wing/corner for easy jams. This same scenario also falls into line while in transition as once he puts his track meet shoes on he’ll either collect an easy two points or pull away from a defender for the ball handler to create on his own.
His biggest attraction however comes from his potential as a catch-and-shoot piece on the perimeter. Green shot 31-of-85 (36.5%) on threes this season with a varying selection of catch-and-shoot and self-made attempts racking up the stat sheet.
Now Green still has some steps to take before being labeled as a certified catch-and-shoot threat, but just as he plays on the ball — his release is fast, and fluid. Green puts a lot of lift into standstill jumpers, meaning in long stretches, fatigue could lead to moments of inconsistency, though with just as many dominant 30+ minute performances under his belt fatigue doesn’t appear to be a major issue.
As a cutter, Green ranks at the top of his class, and as a catch-and-shoot player, he has all the cards laid out to cement his offensive game into star status.
+ Good Passer Running to the Rim
Overall, Jalen Green averaged 2.8 assists in his 15-game run with the G-League Ignite this past season. Off of Green’s most furnished passes, his decision making running to the rim ranked on top of the list
Operating in transition, Jalen Green’s court awareness comes to full fruition. Green’s acceleration makes him a difficult matchup to chase down in transition but if there is any doubt that his shot can be altered — he’ll look behind him for other options. If a trail man is in sight with all other defenders away from the play, Green will launch out behind-the-back passes or simple dimes to his trailer right before he’d make his move at the rim. In doing this, not only does Green find an open teammate in the 2-on-1 but it completely wipes his defender from the play as by that point — he’d already be committed.
In the pick-and-roll, his understanding of finding his roll man is exactly the same as how he scopes out options in transition. Off a high-ball screen, Green will slash inside any chance he gets, and if he has the angle, he’ll hoist a shot. If both defenders latch onto Green while driving, he’s always keeping tabs on his roll man meaning he’ll create off the pass. Green never had a steady pick-and-pop piece playing under Brian Shaw this season so his decision-making skills on that front are still in question, but if his awareness sticks, working out of the pick and pop will be engraved in his arsenal as well.
In half-court situations, Green at times will get tunnel vision especially when a teammate gains separation from the corner, though this too stands as a test of time
+ Pick Pocket
Green has been put on the map for his well-versed offensive play, but defensively, he’s a pretty sneaky pick pocket.
Jalen Green led the Ignite with 1.5 steals this season, showing off multiple ways of disrupting the defender. Taking his man one-on-one, Green wasn’t a major threat in jarring the ball loose, but playing off the ball — he was skilled at sneaking in and stripping the ball of drives.
Working in the passing lanes, Green does a great job of baiting opponents into throwing to a seemingly wide open target, to darting it right at an undercutting Green. The wings became a hotbed for the former five-star’s traps this season, though his work at lurking was displayed everywhere on the perimeter, especially in transition.
– Defending off Screens
For Jalen Green, his combination of speed, size, and verticality makes his defensive upside a real strength, but with a glaring hole in defending off of screens — he’ll need to cross that barrier to become a core member of a defense.
Green’s 178-pound frame thrusts him into a crossroads of sorts. Green’s speed and skinny body should make him a “slippier” player of sorts when coming off screens, on the other spectrum though, facing bigs three weight classes higher than him colliding into screens can take all the wind out of you in a flash.
The main issue with how Green defends these screens is on occasion, he really doesn’t. Far too often during the G-League season Green would freeze as a screener came in his way, but instead of making the move to go over or switch off a screen — he’d stop in his tracks and almost tip-toe around the screen. By that point, his matchup already has multiple steps on Green, and unless his teammate steps up he’ll have a wide open jumper.
For Green, his indecisiveness on screen defense both on and off the basketball can be cited towards communication skills in some instances, but for the grander portion of his lapses, the fault goes to him.
Ten years ago, a deficiency in something as simple as pick and roll defense could easily be covered, now — that hole can result in you being unplayable in certain scenarios, especially playing at the shooting guard. With stars in Zach LaVine, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Donovan Mitchell, and many more becoming almost reliant on working out of the pick and roll, Green will need to improve in getting over screens and decision making overall to fill out a solid defensive game.
Overall, defending off of screens is Green’s biggest weakness.
– Lateral Quickness/Awareness
Jalen Green has proved to be quick-footed on the offensive end, but defensively he can doze off and allow players to turn the corner.
Green competed against former NBA players and fridge pieces throughout his time with Ignite, facing up against speedsters in Yogi Ferrell, Chasson Randle, and Jeremy Lin to name a few. When matched up in isolation, Green got beat out by his defender far too often as a result of his lateral quickness — something that taps into his screen defense as well.
Whenever Green’s man runs to a corner, there are times where the 19-year-old will be caught stargazing for a bit, forgetting about his assignment before having to make a mad dash at his man.
With Green, neither of these two traits are make-or-break downsides as through training, I expect both knots in his game to be non-exploitable.
– Traces of Inconsistency Outside
Green had an on-and-off relationship with the perimeter this season. The guard placed two 0-of-7 games, an 0-of-6 outing, and a 1-of-6 night in his 15 regular-season games with the Ignite. However; as aforementioned earlier, Green has pilled on multiple three-point tangents including a 6-of-8, 5-of-6, and 4-of-9 effort.
As far as the shot goes, Green will have games in the NBA where he simply cannot miss a basket, on the same token though, he’ll have some stinkers tossed into the mix. Up and downs throughout a full-length NBA season are to be expected, even for the best scorers in the league.
Overall the shot inconsistency needs to come far less often, the bigger issue though comes in his recognition of when to quit taking jumpers. Far too often Green tried to shoot himself out of a three-point slump. In those situations, Green can contribute by attacking the basket netting close shots and free throws.
Jalen Green shot 82.9% on 2.3 attempts for the Ignite this season. If that should be an indicator towards anything, it’s that his shooting ability will always be seen as a plus.
– Landing on Drives
Jalen Green has established himself as a special force inside, but the way he comes down on layups and dunks raises injury concerns.
Green’s landing is reminiscent of a young Derrick Rose. Green tends to kick out his left leg after hammering home crowd-pleasing dunks, but in doing this, he’s shifting all of his landing weight into his right leg. Similarly, when Green soars in on a dunk, his knees are sticking out past his toes, which tacks on even more pressure when landing.
With Green’s comparison to Derrick Rose, this by no means predestines him to a major season-ending injury in his calf or hamstring, but over time, these landings may cost the 19-year-old some games.
Jalen Green has put in constant work towards carving out his offensive game this season, learning to properly fall off his dunks may be one of his final pieces to work on — and it very well could be the biggest.
Jalen Green has all the makings of a future slam-dunk champion and an All-Star caliber scorer from all areas of the basket.
Barring no future leg injuries, Green will be one of the best slashers at the shooting guard position. Green takes you from anywhere to get inside. As an isolator, he can bounce off screens or tie you down with his quick first step to turn the corner. Once in the lane his resume of being able to hang in the air, get a foul, or throw down a dunk makes him the biggest driving threat in the class. Round his game out with his understanding of spacing and cutting ability, his work as an alley-oop threat will force defenders into overtime.
With Green’s seasoned stepback, pull-up, and between-the-legs he’ll be able to gain separation off his defender. The biggest question is if Green will quit hoisting shots and look inside if his mid-range/three is off for the night. On the same token, if Green gets hot for outside, he can take over games in a heartbeat.
Defensively. Green is a great disruptor when defending off the ball, though his on-ball defense shed light on his biggest concern. Green’s ability to get around screens will need to be patched up before anything else due to the prominence of the play itself. As a lateral defender, Green isn’t terrible, but slight improvements should be on the agenda to decrease blow-bys.
Evaluation: All-Star Level Scorer who can Take Over Games
Jalen Green’s dunk landings do spell a potential concern as he’ll begin to embark on 70 and 80 game seasons, though his mechanics are fixed and his athleticism stays afloat — he’s going to be one of the scariest matchups at the two-guard.
At his floor, Jalen Green will still be an elite scorer in the league, his real swing factor is defense. If Green becomes a solid defender on screens his other issues really salt away on their own, but that is the only lethal question mark he may have. Under the assumption his defense on screens and lateral quickness have both peaked, he can be abused up top, though with a 6-foot-6 frame he can get onto the center for a chasedown or even sprint to the corner off a switch.
If his defense surfaces, he’ll be seen as one of the most versatile scorers in the league.
As outlined in the segment above, his bounce, mid-air adjustments, strong foul shooting, and strong usage of the alley-oop give him an interior game as dynamic as it gets for a 6-foot-6 guard.
His speed combined with a hasty handle opens up the source of his offensive game, but also his work elsewhere.
Green’s “Harden” stepback will develop into a signature move as his way to let out his three-point shot. Green’s release is fluid and fast as well so keeping him in check one-on-one will be a strenuous task. Add this to the fact Green poses the same threat to pull-up or stepback in the midrange and there’s nowhere he can’t nail a jumper from. Even off the ball, he’ll still effective as a shooter.
Green is a special breed of player where once he’s in the zone you cannot faze him. Think of Jalen Green as the next Zach LaVine. He’s athletic, can score from anywhere (drive, pull-up, stepback), and has the threat to drop 30+ on any given night.