Jalen Green was the highest-ranked prospect in high school coming into this season and, in many ways, he has lived up to that hype. Green really impressed with his time at the G-League Ignite. He is one of if not the, best athlete in the Draft and his ability puts him in contention for the top pick.
The G-League was a fascinating developmental context for Green. He was able to play against true professionals with developed bodies and a desire to scrape their way into the NBA. Green proving his scoring ability against professional defenders was impressive and proves his likely floor in the NBA as a volume scorer. So, with this impressive play against pros, is he worthy of the number one pick? What skills prove that? Here are three reasons Jalen Green deserves to be the number one pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
Reason 1) Scoring is King
The most important skill for any NBA player to have is the ability to create efficient offense for yourself and others. The best players in the league tend to be the best scorers. Players like James Harden, Zach LaVine, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, and CJ McCollum are all shooting guards who excel primarily through their scoring ability.
Jalen Green is probably the best scorer in the class. His combination of shooting, footwork, and athleticism make him potent both on and off-ball. He can be utilized as an elite cutter and off-ball mover at the next level if he finds himself in the right system. He has to develop his handle a bit more, but he has excellent footwork in the mid-range and that’s a good base to build off.
Reason 2) Rare Athleticism
Top-of-the-line athletes are extremely rare. Many times, athletes are only elite in one or two athletic qualities. Strength, lateral quickness, straight-line speed, burst, and vertical pop are all different, but important categories of athleticism, and finding out which aspects a prospect excels in is vital to determining their long-term ceiling.
Jalen Green checks four of the five boxes of athleticism. He is still skinny and the strength will take a long time to develop, but everything else is there. His vertical pop and burst stand out the most when you watch him. He get up with ease off one or two feet and he can blow by any opponent with seeming ease. He is also very fast in a straight line and this shows most in transition. Lastly, his lateral quickness is incredibly important to his defensive projection and he has it in spades. He moves swiftly and it allows him to stick with quick guards and navigate screens well.
Reason 3) Two-Way Potential
Being able to play at least competent defense is vital for any high-level superstar. If a player is a complete liability of that end, he can be constantly abused in the playoffs. This importance doubles for wings because it is harder for them to be hidden on poor offensive players.
Jalen Green has the potential to be an elite defender, but even if he doesn’t hit that ceiling, he has the tools to at least compete. He has long arms and he is incredibly quick laterally. He has an innate ability to get skinny around screens and stick to ball-handlers. He lacks elite playmaking instincts on that end and he is still very skinny, but he has the potential to make it work.
The Competition) Cunningham, Mobley, and Suggs
The 2021 NBA Draft is full of the elite talent at the top of the draft and that is what makes it special. Cade Cunningham is a truly special talent. He is a 6’8 wing with elite pull-up potential and incredible passing touch. Evan Mobley is one of the best center prospects of the last decade. He has elite two-way potential and he is a very unique prospect. Jalen Suggs was a star for Gonzaga, one of the best teams in the history of college basketball. He has elite vision, IQ, athleticism, and a winning mentality. Jalen Green will have tough competition if he wants to be the top pick in the upcoming draft.
Projection) Where Will Jalen Green End Up?
It is very unlikely Jalen Green ends up being the first overall pick in this upcoming draft, but the top three or four is certainly likely. Cade Cunningham has been the consensus number one pick since the preseason and few have wavered on that opinion. Being a 6’8 wing with his combination of scoring and passing is too rare and valuable to pass up. Mobley is the second most likely to be the number one pick because of his rare combination of two-way skills. Green is a solid bet to be the third or fourth pick though, maybe even the second, depending on what the drafting team values most in a prospect.