Scouting Report & Film Review: Jalen Green

Jalen Green has the potential to be a future scoring champion. If he can improve his playmaking and team defense, he could be a franchise altering wing.

Strengths: Athleticism, rebounding, shot creation, scoring

Weaknesses: Playing in control, defensive consistency, shooting consistency

Expected Draft Range: Top 5

Shades Of: Zach LaVine, Jaylen Brown, Collin Sexton

Best Team Fits: Orlando Magic, Oklahoma City Thunder, Toronto Raptors, Detroit Pistons

Jalen Green made a significant splash in the recruiting landscape when he decided to join the G-League Ignite project instead of going with the traditional college route. Green was the first high schooler to commit to the Ignite team, giving it immediate legitimacy as he was the top overall recruit (per ESPN). By getting a jump start on his professional career, Green not only saw a surge in his bank account but also got valuable exposure to NBA-level coaching and competition.

Green has been entrenched as a top-five pick, but he isn’t regularly regarded as a legitimate option as the best player in this draft. A primary reason for this is a general lack of exposure to the masses because his G-League games weren’t primetime television, unlike the college games. While I don’t necessarily agree with Green that he’d be the first pick if he went to college, I do think he has the potential to be one of the league’s elite scorers and a multi-time All-Star.

With his freak athleticism, there isn’t a situation in which I see Green completely failing to pane out as an NBA player. He is an excellent space creator and scorer who could very easily be in the conversation as an NBA scoring champion. If Green is lucky enough to join a team with an established primary initiator and a coaching staff that can develop his defense, he could be the best player from the 2021 NBA Draft.

Scoring

Jalen Green is a lights-out scorer at his core. In the G-League bubble, Green averaged 17.9 points on 46.1/36.5/82.9 shooting splits. A few of my biggest concerns with Green were how reliable his outside shooting would be and how he would handle NBA-level physicality. Green quickly extinguished those concerns.

Green’s 36.5 percent from three wasn’t an elite percentage by any means, but it was encouraging and better than I anticipated. The shooting form still needs some refining on the edges, but in general, it was consistent with no glaring flaws. On top of that, Green took nearly six threes a game in various settings (off the dribble, off the catch, step-backs, etc.), and his plus-80 percent from the line is an encouraging indicator of future shooting success.

Another encouraging sign of future scoring dominance was Green’s ability to create space. Green will be a handful for defenders from day one because of his athleticism, burst, and long strides. Green, almost effortlessly, goes from standing still to a full sprint in the blink of an eye. If the defender somehow regains position, Green slams on the brakes and takes a substantial step-back jumper that the defender has no chance of contesting. Green’s physical tools give him a significant advantage on their own, but the elite footwork he consistently displays is what is so exciting about his future scoring potential.

With Ignite, Green was used as mostly the offensive hub. Given his scoring prowess, Green operated in isolation quite frequently. It’s in these situations where he can genuinely punish defenses, especially when he gets a favorable switch. Green has no issues creating space for jumpers (as we saw above), but he is even more dangerous when he looks to attack the rim.

While Green does utilize his freak athleticism to his full advantage, he is also much craftier than he gets credit for, as we can see below. After a series of jab steps, Green uses a slight shot fake to get his defender to commit to and open a brief window to drive baseline. The defender does an excellent job of cutting off Green’s drive, and Green unwisely picks up his dribble. Instead of panicking or pivoting away from the defender, searching for a teammate to bail him out, Green shot fakes which the defender completely bites on. As the defender flies past Green, Green uses a lovely up-and-under move to finish with a floater.

The defender in the above clip did a great job of cutting off Green’s drive, but that feat is not easily achieved. More frequently, Green has no issues turning the defender’s hips and getting to the rim.

Here, Green aggressively attacks the defender’s top foot, forcing the defender to flip his hips and scramble to recover. Green beats the defender to the nail, essentially taking him out of the play. Now that Green has the defender on his hip, Green mainly needs to worry about any weakside rotations. The help defender never commits to the rotation, allowing Green to slither through both defenders with an extension finish which further negates any shot-blocking potential.

Despite his extraordinary athleticism, Green isn’t the most imposing player. He has a slender frame that suggests he may struggle to finish around the rim. While Green doesn’t have the requisite strength to deal with NBA rim protectors, he does have immaculate body control. Few players can hang in mid-air like Green does. This ability allows him to avoid shot blockers and change the angle of his shot at the rim. Even if Green doesn’t get significantly stronger, this ability as a baseline will make him an effective interior scorer.

The next step for Green to take as an interior scorer is improving his ability to finish through contact. Green didn’t have the best results when he tried to finish through defenders at the rim because it was easy for them to knock Green off balance due to his slender frame. Despite his struggles, though, I was highly encouraged with Green’s at-rim finishing potential.

Most prospects who trend toward the skinnier end of the spectrum actively avoid contact at the rim. This wasn’t the case with Green, though, as he actively sought out contact. This stubbornness frequently led to poor shot attempts, but it also showed that Green wasn’t going to be intimidated. Developing this type of mindset is far more complicated than adding muscle to a teenager. When Green attacked shot blockers, he did a great job of getting into the defender’s body, eliminating their ability to elevate and block the shot, and then changing his release angle after initiating the contact. While Kyrie Irving is a vastly different player, this is a skill he frequently displays when finishing at the rim.

Green will likely be taken by a team that sees him as a franchise cornerstone and elite scoring option. Given the expectations, Green will probably have the ball in his hands a lot. While this will likely lead to some inefficient offense early on, it isn’t bad in the grand scheme of things. We’ve seen players like Zach LaVine and Devin Booker experience massive growth in their offensive repertoire because of the sizeable on-ball responsibility they saw early in their careers. However, I desperately hope that Green goes to a team that already has an established point guard so he can play more off-ball.

By not having to be the primary initiator, Green can use his athleticism in a wider variety of ways without bogging down the offense with his inconsistent playmaking. He can leak out in transition quicker, get to the rim by attacking closeouts, and attack space after running off screens.

When playing off-ball, Green has excellent spatial awareness and work rate. He doesn’t simply go through the motions but instead works to create and exploit advantages.

Here, Green shows off how deadly his athleticism can be in space. After clearing out the lane, Green runs off a back screen on the emptied weakside. Based on the angle of the screen, the play is likely for Green to sprint to the opposite corner for the open three. Instead, Green sees the rim is completely unattended, so he changes his route and finishes the lob.

Besides running off screens, Green’s athleticism is deadly when running in transition. After misses, Green is eager to get out and run. He is frequently the first one down the court and is always looking for the highlight dunk. As we can see below, Green’s speed beats the defense down the floor, and his body control allows him to evade the block attempt while finishing with the dunk.

Jalen Green has the potential to lead the league in scoring. I expect him to be a reliable shooter who can create space, shoot on the move, and shoot off the catch. His athleticism will allow him to regularly create advantage situations that force the defense to scramble. In the open court, whether isolation, off-screens, or transition, Green is tremendously difficult to stop once he gets a step advantage to the rim. By taking Green, a team guarantees themselves a 20+ points per game scorer on a nightly basis.

Playmaking

The most significant hole (assuming you’re not concerned about his outside shooting) in Jalen Green’s offensive game right now is his playmaking. While this isn’t a deal-breaker, given Green is a shooting guard, it is absolutely an area he must improve on. Given Green’s anticipated scoring proficiency and the constant need for diversified playmaking in NBA rotations, Green will far well short of expectations if his playmaking doesn’t improve.

With that said, Green isn’t an atrocious passer. There are moments of brilliance and moments that make you wish he’d go to the bench so they can help remove his blinders. The main concern with Green’s playmaking is his lack of consistency. Green frequently gets tunnel vision when he has the ball, and his passing accuracy is erratic.

The hope is that Green lands in a spot that doesn’t require him to be a primary initiator right away. By playing more off-ball, Green can create for others on the move. He won’t have to create something out of nothing for others, but instead, he can attack the defense and create for others when the defense makes a mistake.

Here, we see an ideal playmaking opportunity for Green. Green curls off a floppy screen into the lane. Green attacks the rim, initiates contact with the interior defender, and recognizes that his initial defender stayed with him instead of switching to the screener. Instead of attempting a wild shot, Green wraps the ball around to his teammate, left wide open for the layup.

By being put in motion and space, Green is a massive scoring threat. This threat forces defenses to be perfect with their rotations and switches. If they make a mistake, Green can punish them with dump-off passes like the one above.

Green’s passing while on the move is also a valuable tool in transition. Green is a devastating scorer in transition, but he can also set up others. As Green brings the ball up, he watches his big man running the floor the entire time. Once Green recognizes that his big man has beaten the defense down the floor and no one fills the lane, Green leads his teammate to the rim for an easy dunk.

While Green’s playmaking is at its best when he’s in motion, he has shown some playmaking chops in the half-court. When Green saw success with his half-court playmaking, it was because he was put in situations that had specific reads he had to make. In other words, they weren’t situations in which he had to manipulate defenders or improvise.

Here, Green runs a double drag where he can create for either one of his teammates. Green doesn’t have any intention of scoring here. Instead, he is focused on properly reading the defense. As Green dribbles off the screens, he knows that the first screener will pop to the wing while the second screener will roll to the rim. Green sees that the first screener’s defender drops to the roll man because the second screener’s defender steps up to hedge Green. At the same time, Green’s initial defender fights through the screens to recover to Green. Green makes the correct read and hits the open shooter.

Here, Green is put in a higher-paced set that may require more improvisation from him. Green’s defender initially fights over the first screen, so Green reuses the screen. On the second screen, Green’s defender yet again goes to fight over it. However, the screener’s defender, who initially played drop coverage, is now stepping up to switch the screen. Green immediately sees the miscommunication and leads the roller to the rim.

As the G-League games progressed, Green was put in more and more of a playmaking role. He showed growth as a passer, and the below clip was one of his more promising assists.

Green is working like hell to get the ball. After faking to run off the backscreen, Green sprints back to receive the dribble handoff. Once he gets the ball, Green cuts back towards the corner, essentially reusing the screen. Anticipating his teammate getting stuck on the screen, the opposing big man steps to Green to deter a jumper. At the same time, the screener slips to the rim. Instead of chucking up a lousy shot, Green reads that the paint is unoccupied and threads the double team to feed the roller.

Many of Green’s assists came from him reading one, maybe two, weakside defenders and then making the accurate pass. The difficulty level wasn’t superb, and he rarely passed teammates open by manipulating or moving the defense. That is entirely fine.

Early in his career, these are the types of reads that Green will have to make to be a competent passer. He doesn’t need to turn into Steve Nash, but he does need to find the roller. His scoring prowess will likely garner a lot of attention from the defense, so the simple act of reading the weakside defender and finding the open man will be essential.

The concerns, besides high-level defensive manipulation, arise with Green’s ability to do this consistently. While there were improvements throughout Green’s G-League experience, there were still a plethora of examples of Green putting on blinders once he got the ball or completely missing the target.

Here, Green does an excellent job of initially attacking downhill and splitting the double team. Once he gets in the lane, though, he fails to account for the weakside rotation. As the help defender rotates, Green has two wide-open teammates in the corner. Instead, Green fails to make the read and tosses up a wild underhand layup.

Again, Green does an excellent job of beating his defender to get in the lane and force a defensive rotation. Once Green makes the jump stop to avoid charging into the help defender, he should be looking for the kick out to the corner shooter. Instead, Green pauses and tries to finish with a heavily contested floater.

When Green is put in situations that segment the court into essentially small-sided games, he can be an effective playmaker. When he has to read and react to multiple defensive rotations, though, his blinders come on, and he only looks to score.

The above missed drive-and-kick opportunities are going to be situations that Green is in regularly. Green will frequently beat his initial defender off the dribble, and he must improve his floor awareness. Once his defender is beaten, and one or two help defenders rotate to him, that means some shooters have been left open. As Green continues to develop and the blinders fall away, his scoring prowess will inherently create numerous playmaking opportunities. However, whether Green is willing to capitalize on those is a question that will only be answered in time.

Defense

Jalen Green has all the tools to be an excellent defender. Unfortunately, he has yet to prove that he can implement those tools consistently to be a positive defender. The nuances of team defense and screen navigation elude Green as he frequently misses rotations, miscommunicates switches, and dies on screens. The bulk of Green’s impact will come on the offensive end, but he must improve as a team defender, so he at least isn’t actively hurting his team.

A lot of the time, simply focusing on the play would eliminate some of Green’s defensive blunders. In the below clip, Green might as well not even be on the floor given his lack of defensive commitment. Green’s man casually starts to lift out of the corner on the weakside, and Green watches the ball the entire time. Green’s man notices the unoccupied lane and that Green hasn’t stayed with him as he lifted out of the corner. Green’s man executes a face cut, and Green provides zero resistance.

Besides staying more focused, Green desperately needs to improve his screen navigation. There are flashes where he gets skinny and avoids the screen, but he frequently gets mixed up in what path he needs to take (over or under), miscommunicates if they need to switch the screen, and will get taken entirely out of the play by a screen. Some of these issues can be corrected by adding strength and more experience, but he will need to make a concerted effort to listen to his coaches and study his opponents’ tendencies.

Here, Green doesn’t inherently do anything wrong, but it is a good setup for approaching one of the following plays. Green’s main lifts out of the corner to run off a floppy screen. Green decides to stick tight on his man and follow him by going over the screen. By doing this, Green has his man covered if he pops to the wing and is likely anticipating that Daishen Nix would tag or Isaiah Todd would rotate from the weakside if Green’s man decided to cut. As Green comes off the screen, his route is too wide, eliminating any chance of him getting between his man and the rim again. Green’s assumption of his teammates helping in case of a cut turns out to be futile, and his man gets an easy layup.

Only a couple of possessions later, Green is put in the same play. His man rises out of the weakside corner to run off the screen. Since he’s coming from the weakside, Green isn’t as tight on his man as he previously was. After just getting burned on the cut, Green decides to go under the screen. While an understandable decision in the pursuit to avoid déjà vu, Green misreads the situation rather drastically. The location of the screen is more central, which means Todd is automatically in a position to help stifle any drive, given he is already at the nail. Additionally, this time, the screener is an opposing big man, whereas it was a guard in the previous play. Before, Nix missed the tag because he was more focused on not conceding a three to his man as he popped after setting the screen. Here, there is a significantly lower threat of Todd’s man popping for a three. Finally, the ball-handler starts to make his pass before Green’s man is even close to the screen, signaling like a neon sign that Green’s man isn’t cutting off the screen.

Green’s struggles with screen navigation and communication continue in the below dribble handoff. The ball-handler keeps the ball in the DHO, and Green looks to stay with his man. Instead, Green’s teammate switches. This may be a case of poor communication or Green not knowing their defensive preferences, but it puts Green two steps behind the play either way. The ball-handler dribbles loosely off the screen, giving Green plenty of space to recover, but Green decides to go way under the screen half-heartedly. The shot ends up getting missed, but it had nothing to do with Green’s defense.

Green’s screen navigation and communication issues aren’t solely restricted to his off-ball defense. Here, Green completely dies on the screen and makes no effort to recover. Green looks like he is expecting to switch, but with his two big men as the others involved in the screen, it doesn’t make sense for them to switch to a guard on the perimeter.

Again, Green struggles with how to navigate the screen in the pick-and-roll properly. Initially, I like how he gets low in his stance and is in a position to get skinny to get over the screen. However, Green makes his move too soon and has no idea of his big man’s positioning. Amir Johnson is high on the screen, preparing to hedge. In this case, Green should encourage Jordan Poole to use the screen while fighting over and recovering. Instead, Green approaches the screen as if Johnson is playing drop coverage and is in the lane, but alas, he is not. Quickly recognizing the defensive coverage, Poole sends Green the wrong way with a jab step and promptly beats him off the dribble. Green gets bailed out by a nice rotation by Brandon Ashley.

The two common issues with Green’s poor on-ball screen navigation are miscommunication and lack of understanding of the defensive scheme. These problems are fixable, but it will be a new way of playing that Green will have to commit to. In the NBA, Green will see more screens than he’s ever seen before. If he doesn’t get more consistent and reliable with his screen navigation, he could be a nightmare defensively and not in a good way.

I’ve hinted at Green having the tools to be a good defender, so I promise that it isn’t all doom-and-gloom for him on that end. In fact, there are some encouraging signs of Green being a positive defender.

Green’s natural freak athleticism gives him a more advantageous starting spot than 95 percent of other players. His long strides, plus-wingspan, and quick-twitch athleticism allow him to make up for any errors rather quickly. The most promising area of Green’s defense has been his isolation defense.

Here, Green closes out under control and quickly gets into a broad, low defensive base. This stance gives Green good balance and allows him to react swiftly to the ball-handler. Green shows off exquisite footwork as he tracks every dribble along with his hip flexibility by quickly flipping them in response to each crossover. After denying drives to the right and left, Green explodes to block the step-back three.

Even without perfect footwork, Green has the athleticism and adaptability to recover quickly. He does an excellent job of initially cutting off the drive to his right, but he is forced to turn his hips and cross his feet to do so. For many players, this move would throw them off balance and make them unable to recover to the counter move. Instead, Green quickly recovers and gets back in a low, wide defensive stance. Green slides his feet perfectly to cut off the second drive attempt and forces the turnover.

Outlook

Jalen Green’s unique blend of scoring and athleticism gives him superstar upside. After the first pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, it will be hard for any team to pass on Green. He has the tools to be a team’s offensive hub and lead the league in scoring. He needs to slow the game down as he can get out of control, but with experience, that should come.

As a neutral observer, I desperately want Green to land with a team with an established playmaker. At the top of the draft, teams like the Thunder, Raptors, Pistons, and Magic are the most exciting. He will immediately provide a scoring boost along with secondary playmaking. He will have to be covered for some on defense, but I expect Green to develop into a positive defender given his athleticism and work rate.

Jalen Green is the textbook athletic scoring guard who can completely change a team’s offense. While multiple All-Star appearances and scoring titles are lofty goals for any player, they seem incredibly likely for Green. We will hear Jalen Green’s name get called early in the 2021 NBA Draft, but it will be an absolute steal if he goes anywhere after the fourth pick.

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