Houston Rockets rookie guard Jalen Green went into Tuesday's NBA Summer League game against the Detroit Pistons with something to prove, and he acknowledged after the 111-91 win that he had a chip on his shoulder.
Speaking to ESPN after the game, Green said he felt he should have been the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft rather than No. 2:
Green and the Rockets went up against the Pistons and No. 1 overall pick Cade Cunningham on Tuesday, which provided Green with an opportunity to show the Pistons what they missed out on.
He was undoubtedly the best player on the court Tuesday, going 6-for-11 from the field for 25 points with five rebounds and three assists.
While Green stole the show, Cunningham was solid in his own right, leading the Pistons with 20 points on 8-of-18 shooting and contributing four rebounds, three steals and two assists as well.
Both Green and Cunningham have shown flashes of brilliance during Summer League play and given off the impression that they could be perennial All-Stars, but they will always be compared to each other for the remainder of their careers.
Regardless of what happened Tuesday, it is difficult to blame the Pistons for taking Cunningham, as he was widely viewed as the consensus No. 1 overall pick.
In his one and only collegiate season at Oklahoma State, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 2.3 three-pointers made and 1.6 steals per game, while leading the Cowboys to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
Green took a different route to the NBA, bypassing college in favor of the NBA G League's Ignite team. On a team stacked with potential NBA prospects, Green stood out as Ignite's top player.
In 15 games, he averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.8 assists, 2.1 three-pointers made and 1.5 steals.
Since Green had the opportunity to play with and against some players with NBA experience, it can be argued that he is the more NBA-ready prospect right now than Cunningham.
If that is indeed the case, it comes as little surprise that Green got one up on Cunningham and the Pistons on Tuesday night.
Cunningham will have his opportunities to bounce back against Green and the Rockets during the regular season, and NBA fans are eagerly anticipating the 2021-22 schedule release to see when the top two picks in the 2021 draft will clash in a game that matters.