Could G League Decision Backfire for Future NBA Lottery Pick Jalen Green?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterApril 16, 2020

Prolific Prep's Jalen Green #4 is seen against La Lumiere during a high school basketball game at the Hoophall Classic, Sunday, January 19, 2020, in Springfield, MA. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan)
Gregory Payan/Associated Press

There are numerous paths to the NBA out of high school, and top recruit Jalen Green is trying a new one. He'll be the first major NBA prospect to bypass college or overseas leagues for the G League, an unprecedented move that's sparking debates related to scouting, player development, draft stock and financial implications. 

Green is regarded as a potential top-three pick in the 2021 draft. We surveyed a panel of NBA personnel people and G League coaches to see what this decision means for Green. 

Immediate Reactions

  • "I love it from an evaluation standpoint," one NBA scout told Bleacher Report. "I think he'll be solid in the G League. I assume three-point percentage won't be great, probably high turnover rate, but obviously he'll be very good in transition. It will really show where he is as a playmaker, defender and IQ guy."
  • "I don't know about it," said another NBA scout. "I've always believed college is the best place for these guys to get better, but maybe I'm old-school. Tough to say how he'll do in the G League. We've never seen someone of Green's caliber go that route. I'm sure he'll do well. But what is the incentive for a team to totally cut him loose or feature him? Ticket sales, sure. What else?"
  • "Personally as a G League coach, I would love to have one of those kids for a year to work with and help him get better and prepared for being an NBA player," said longtime G League coach Bob MacKinnon Jr. "As a G League coach, I never worried about how long a guy would be with me. We always concentrated in player development and getting them better each day. It is a transitional league, and you want guys moving up and on as quickly as possible."
  • "Regarding coaching, I feel the discussions between the player, agent and organization would have to be transparent and honest from the beginning so everyone is on the same page with development and minutes," said Fort Wayne Mad Ants assistant general manager Chris Taylor. "I'm sure there will be some growing pains for the first player to make the jump, but I feel it can be very beneficial to young players, entirely dependent on team and situation. It's exciting to think about the possibility of a major young talent [like Green] making that step."
  • "I think with all the uncertainty in college athletics and all the improvements in the G League that it is now, more than ever, a reasonable alternative for kids who are going to be one-and-done anyway," said MacKinnon.

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

How It Will Work

According to ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski and Jonathan Givony, the G League could be prepared to offer Green $500K while providing a one-year development program on a team with other one-and-done draft prospects. 

While the new offer would make the G League more enticing for high school seniors like Green, an explosive scoring guard who'll turn 19 next February, the question is how he'll perform in a league loaded with former NBA pros and recent draft picks.   

Could weaker stats or inefficiency (relative to NCAA prospects) affect his draft stock and first NBA contract? Long-term, is there more to lose than gain from one season in the G League playing with those former pros and recent draft picks fighting for their careers?

Green is also choosing to decline the overseas route that's increased in popularity. This past season, high-profile prospects LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton chose Australia's NBL, an attractive route for American prospects since there isn't a language barrier and the league has embraced one-and-done prospects by creating the Next Stars initiative for youngsters with immediate NBA aspirations. 

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Before the first NBL game for Ball and Hampton, we projected both to go top-10 in 2020, and nothing has changed regarding their draft stocks after the season. 

But Green isn't following Ball and Hampton to Australia. He could be setting his own trend in the United States during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, which may also factor into the G League's appeal over heading abroad. 

Meanwhile, the possibility that games may have to be played without fans could make college less of a draw for prospects who were excited about sparking an arena full of fellow students. 

The level of competition in the G League will be stiffer than the NCAA's. It's tougher to compare it to a league like the NBL. The first scout described the NBL as "more rugged and physical, though even that is changing" and the G League being "more open for freelancing."

Though there hasn't been a high school player who's gone straight to the G League (without declaring for the draft first), we have seen players at similar ages succeed there.

The Los Angeles Lakers' 2019 second-round pick, Talen Horton-Tucker averaged 18.1 points and 3.9 assists at 19 years old. Jalen Lecque, who was eligible for the 2019 draft after skipping college because he was a fifth-year high school student, averaged 13.4 points and 3.4 assists for the Northern Arizona Suns. 

Horton-Tucker was the No. 46 pick, and Lecque went undrafted.

Green, however, is currently the projected No. 2 pick on our 2021 board. At 6'5", he possesses elite athleticism for attacking and finishing, and he's made encouraging strides with his creation, playmaking and long-distance shot-making. 

The perception among scouts, coaches and executives is that Green will be just fine. Not every high school senior is as special as Prolific Prep's star wing, though.

Will the G League be a viable option for every graduating high school senior? Probably not for those looking to maximize their draft stock.

But the G League has still done a good job strengthening its reputation, and between the reported new financial incentives, the coronavirus implications and Green's arrival, future prospects could quickly become more open to choosing the NBA's developmental system over college or international leagues.

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