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Draft Watch: Is Jalen Green to be the next great Raptor?

Green was the biggest unknown until he showed out as the best player on the G League Ignite team. It’s clear that we’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg, and his draft stock is on the rise. Could the Raptors take him at #4?

G League Ignite v Delaware Blue Coats Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

With the Raptors in the four-spot of the 2021 NBA Draft, we’ll be doing some in-depth reviews for Toronto’s potential options. As it stands, with Cade Cunningham locked in at number, there does not seem to be a consensus on who should go 2-3-4 between Jalen Green, Evan Mobley, and Jalen Suggs. We also can’t discount the possibility of Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster taking a chance on Jonathan Kuminga or Scottie Barnes.

Today we’ll get started with Jalen Green, who took his talents to the G League as part of the Ignite select team experiment. At the end of the season, he was clearly the best player on the squad (though I’m not sure his coach was aware of this fact). Will Green be available in the fourth spot? What would he bring to the Raptors? Let’s look into what he brings to the table.

Jalen Green, SG

  • Age: 19
  • Height: 6’6”
  • Wingspan: 6’7.5”
  • Affiliation: NBA G League Ignite
  • Stats: 17.9 PTS(46.1%), 36.5% 3P%, 4.1 REB, 2.8 Ast, 2.7 TO, 1.5 STL, 0.3 BLK

Why Jalen?

Jalen Green is an explosive shooting guard loaded with potential. This 19-year-old kid was phenomenal in the G League’s mini-season (the Gubble) earlier this year, averaging 17.9 points per game and shooting 36.5 percent behind the arc despite not having the best shooting mechanics.

Out of the hyped phenoms on the Ignite squad, Green showed the most growth during the tournament, which is not something so easily seen in that environment and in such a short timeframe. Look, the kid dropped 30 points on a knock-out playoff game against a well-prepared Raptors 905. He was slowed down for most of the first half, but he was able to problem-solve what the defense was doing against him. An almost-casual 30-point game from your best player in a big-time game? Sign me up!

Green comes from the mould of shooting guards out there to destroy their defender, any which way they can. He has the ability to break down his defender off the dribble, and also has the hangtime, body control, and athleticism to adjust on the fly — and in mid-air — if needed. Green has shown the ability to get into the midrange by incorporating the in-between shot into his repertoire. Now, admittedly, his handle is not there yet, but it feels like only a matter of time before he tightens it up to become really dangerous in isolation situations. Did I mention Green has shown some turbo acceleration too? Ultimately, if Green can actualize all of these things, his ceiling is obvious: he’ll be a threat anywhere on the floor with the ball and could potentially be a crunch-time go-to scorer.

Green is an adequate passer who showed plenty of playmaking flashes throughout his Ignite campaign. He’s comfortable — or perhaps comfortably bold — making highlight-level passes in transition. In all, Green seems to have good enough awareness of his teammates’ immediate location/moves to hit those quick passes once he gets the ball. Perhaps one thing to keep an eye on is whether he can create shots for his teammates off the bounce, as some of his high-turnover games stemmed from a combination of his faults (good idea, poor execution) and his teammates (why did you leave where you’re supposed to be?).

Defensively, like many young players, Green’s got work to do — but any disappointment around his defensive game stems from the fact that he could be a solid defensive player. What’s promising so far is Green’s developing rotation awareness and effort to cover large grounds to contest shots around the perimeter. He also plays the passing lanes well with solid anticipation skills. Green’s defensive rotations, including the immediate recognition and communication to his teammates, are solid — yet inconsistent. I believe Green can be a decent team defender, especially on the defensive schemes that the Raptors employ. His quickness, length, and athleticism would help in coach Nick Nurse’s perimeter-closeout defensive philosophy. Green will need to get stronger of course, as he’ll find himself switched against bigs from time to time — much like Toronto’s point guards.

Areas of Concern

I was looking forward to seeing Jalen Green’s Combine measurements, but unfortunately, he declined the invite, much like the other top prospects. We’re left guessing a bit as to what his actual measurements are. The only concrete numbers we have (listed above) are his older measurements, which put him at 6’6” now with a modest 6’7.5” wingspan.

Raptors 905 v G League Ignite Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Is it a big deal? For comparison, Kevin Porter Jr. and Nickeil Alexander-Walker posted a 6’4” height without shoes and a 6’9” wingspan during their respective Combines. Eye-balling his size in-game, he doesn’t look significantly taller than Daishen Nix, who was at the Combine and measured in at 6’3” without shoes. That’s a big difference compared to the 6’5” “official measurement” that the G League put out to hype the Ignite team. To say nothing of the 6’6” you’ll see all over the internet.

Rio Grande Valley Vipers v G League Ignite Photo by Juan Ocampo/NBAE via Getty Images

Does it matter? Probably not, especially if Green plays bigger than his size. His quickness, explosion, and budding jumper should make up for it. I bring this up because based on my years watching the G League, the big men are undersized in general — which makes a difference when you’re 6’4” or thereabouts. The frontcourt players in the NBA are monsters: they’re taller, stronger, and much more athletic. The Raptors have some undersized guards already who know how to make an impact, but it can be a hard road.

Even the players at Green’s position in the NBA will be taller and stronger. This is why players who would get their first “pop” in the G League often struggle once they’re called into play against NBA players. We’ve seen this from Malachi Flynn and Jalen Harris recently. They figured out the timing in the G League — and then had to relearn it all in the NBA.

There’s really one meaningful game that Jalen Green played in the G League. As it happens, it came in the playoffs against the Raptors 905. Coach Patrick Mutombo and his team came prepared, armed with the scouting report, and a much better game plan, which is why it took Green almost the entire first half to figure out how to get to the basket. He was held without a field goal until four minutes in the half were left while being checked by Matt Mooney. Green could not get past Mooney, nor the occasional switches to Matt Morgan and all the other smaller guards the 905 had on the floor.

In the NBA, being guarded by shorter or slower players is a heaven-sent gift, and in that above-noted context, it took a while for Green to make the adjustments to get his game going. Though adjust he did in the second half.

Raptors Fit

Jalen Green’s current and future game fills a couple of Raptors’ needs. His ceiling is so high, and the Raptors need elite talent to build around as they move on to the next phase of the franchise. If nothing else, it seems possible that Green can immediately be a Jordan Clarkson-type gunner off the bench or a decent third option as a starter. But what more?

I like Green to fall into the Raptors’ lap because his selection doesn’t necessarily equate to Kyle Lowry moving on next season. Lowry, of course, knows a thing or two about playing with high-flying shooting guards and also about mentoring young backcourt players. In this scenario, I also don’t mind the Raptors letting Gary Trent Jr. sign elsewhere to free up as many minutes as possible for Green. Given his size and slight frame right now, Green’s ideal position is his natural position, the shooting guard role, though it’s not impossible to envision the Raptors downsizing with Green at the three.

Green’s addition would infuse scoring, pace, and shot creation to the Raptors, which has been something they’ve been lacking (outside of Pascal Siakam). It would be good to have more players that Nurse can use that can be a threat offensively. In the short term, it’s possible for to Green slot in as the first shooting guard off the bench — though I wouldn’t be surprised to see him get asked to run some plays every now and then.

Perhaps the only thing I potentially don’t like about Green’s fit with the Raptors is his pairing with Fred VanVleet in the backcourt. I can see both together dominating the basketball, potentially creating less-than-ideal ball movement. But hey, Green’s got a budding playmaking game, and he has shown flashes of some nice passing ability here and there. To reach his potential, he’ll need to tighten up his handle, grow into his body, and get stronger, be a decent perimeter threat, and develop a passing game. Perhaps we could see Green grow into a DeMar DeRozan-like shooting guard — only with a better long-range shooting ability.

Green is one of the guys in this draft that could potentially be a Devin Booker/Zach LaVine/Jaylen Brown type of building block. His potential screams of multi-time All-Star, assuming he rises to meet it. Given the Raptors’ development system and fit, Green can either be a really good number two on a playoff team or perhaps knocking on the door of the number one spot on a playoff team.


Interviews and Workouts

We are starting to see more and more news regarding interviews and workouts. While no known prospects have worked out with the Raptors yet, some prospects have gone on record that they interviewed with the Raptors:

  • The usual suspects had the Raptors ended up in the mid-lottery range: Kai Jones, Jalen Johnson, and Jaden Springer.
  • The reach at no. 4 or if they had fallen to 7th: Scottie Barnes and Keon Johnson. Second-round prospects in Marcus Bagley and Miles McBride.
  • Wichita State’s Tyson Etienne will work out with the Raptors on July 5 (potential undrafted free agent, a.k.a. Raptors special).