Last night, the G-League Ignite season wrapped up with a quarterfinals loss to the Raptors. The four major prospects coming to the 2021 draft -- Jalen Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd and Daishen Nix -- are all done playing and now have a completed chapter in their pre-draft report. We put together a scouting report of what Green can do and how his game might translate to the pros. There are some real areas he must improve and tighten up to maximize his strengths in the NBA.
As we get into some of the top-tier prospects, a few words will accompany their videos to provide further context to what we see in them at the next level.
As a guy who isn't big on player comparisons, Green's ceiling and comparison is going to be somewhat determinant on the mentality he takes with his shot selection. Think back to conversations surrounding Anthony Edwards a year ago. If Green sees himself as a perimeter shot-maker, a guy who takes a ton of step-backs and high volume of threes, he'll be good. If he gets into attacking mode and uses his finishing as his top tool, he'll be great.
There's a reason finishing was listed first on our scouting video for Green. He's a better finisher than he is a shot maker. He combines so many fantastic tools that are appealing about guards who attack the rim. He has power and burst to finish above the rim. He plays through contact, climbs the ladder and can adjust in mid-air around it. His last-step quickness (the ability to change the angle of his launch or rim attack with his last step into his takeoff) is special. He finishes at an incredibly high rate, and did so over stronger, bigger, more polished defenders than most college prospects do. Green is a special, special finisher.
Perhaps what's most appealing, though, is the quickness and length of his first step. Green can blow by legitimate NBA athletes and get a paint touch. None of the great scoring qualities matter if he isn't able to get separation. Green is already so good in this area.
That's where the mentality and step-back jumper come in. He needs to use the shot-making as a compliment to when teams play off him, as opposed to waiting for them to crowd him as a shooter and then ripping around them to the rim. Part of that means drawing a few more fouls and free throws. He can add a bit of a James Harden or Russell Westbrook aspect to his game where he feels contact and initiates it. That will come with time and strength, we hope.
Green's shot profile early in his career will be important in how confident I am that he realizes his ceiling. Outside of Cade Cunningham, Green likely has the highest ceiling in this draft.
There's a lot to like on the other end of the floor, too. Green really impressed me with the maturity of his help defense and how quickly he became an impactful defender from one pass away. Stunts, bluff-and-recover moves, X-outs after a sink and fill to tag the dunker's spot... it's rare to see all of those multiple times from such a young player. I think he has a great understanding of the game and is a quick learner. The high ceiling may not be incredibly far away, believe it or not.
That said, there are still many areas Green has to tighten up. Because he's such a talented scorer, he'll have the ball in his hands a ton. That means playmaking duties are necessary. He had some impressive reads in the G-League bubble, mostly to rolling bigs and teammates in transition. He hasn't quite mastered the spread pick-and-roll yet (though, to be fair, Brian Shaw didn't run a ton of it). He takes some questionable shots thanks to the confidence he has in his scoring arsenal (and he does require a longer leash as a result). He'll need to really get down the feel for the game in order to maximize that impact.
Compare Green to the other two top-tier guards (Cunningham and Suggs) and he's farthest behind as a playmaker and passer, both in functional and in untapped ways. I'm not certain Green isn't the worst shooter of the three; I've been really impressed with the pull-up scoring from both Cade and Suggs, two areas that were question marks for them. Suggs is a slightly better on-ball defender, and Cade has the tantalizing size advantage. Essentially, I'd have to feel incredibly confident in Green figuring out the passing part to take him over Cade and Suggs right now.
The long legs and high center of gravity also lead to simple ball handling turnovers. He has to learn to play lower, and with added lower body strength and a few years in an NBA training program, he'll get there. These are minor detractors that take away from immediate value, not necessarily clear blemishes on his long-term upside.
I came into the bubble having Green lower than the top-5. I was somewhat skeptical about his feel for the game, and thought his shot selection would turn me off quite a bit. His passing was better than anticipated, he made a good deal of shots, and his defensive maturity was the swing factor that vaulted him into that top-5 group, creating a clear tier of five guys who could be #1 in other drafts.
If he climbs above the other four, it will be due to taking a second look at the game film and seeing something that I missed the first time, though. At this point, I'm fairly secure with keeping him at #5 and think the only thing holding him back is a mentality to embrace a role as the lead creator for others as opposed to just being a shot-maker.