Back in January, Jalen Green led his high school, Prolific Prep, against the No. 15 team in the nation, La Lumiere in LaPorte, Indiana, in the HoopHall Classic played in Springfield, Massachusetts. La Lumiere is an especially tough defensive team and for most Prolific players, that was an issue. Not so much for Green, though, who scored 26 of his team’s 69 points in the win.
“He’d be the No. 1 pick if he were in this year’s draft,” one scout at the game told me. “Next year’s group is better but he is sure to be Top 5. He’s smooth, he’s long, he can shoot it and he has gotten better and better as a playmaker and shot creator. Great potential. I’d pick him first if he was coming out this year.”
Green, it turns out, is coming out, though in a nontraditional way. In a move that figures to shake up the NBA and the traditional draft process, Green is skipping out on college and moving right to the NBA’s G-League, becoming the first top prospect to be part of the league’s Professional Path initiative.
To make the plan work, Green will play for an unaffiliated G-League team in Southern California that will feature roster spots for players scheduled to graduate this year but who don’t want to go to college. Green reportedly will make $500,000 for the season and will have access to NBA-level coaching and development.
“I wanted to get better overall and prepare myself for the NBA because that’s my ultimate goal,” Green told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “Everything was planned out right and set up for me to succeed. I think this was a good decision at the end of the day. I’m still going to be able to go back to college and finish school. So, it’s not really that I’m missing out on college because I can go back and finish whenever I need to. School is a big thing in my family.”
‘Everyone has Been Fed Up With the NCAA’
The signing of Green amounts to a power move by the G-League and the NBA, which had seen the traditional pre-draft system slowly break down over the past 25 years, a breakdown that accelerated recently.
Throughout basketball’s history, players have built up their reputations and resumes with their performances in the collegiate ranks. It was on that basis that the league would draft them. But going back to Kevin Garnett’s entry into the NBA from high school in 1995, the league clearly had a problem with budding star player who had no interest in going to college.
The one-and-done rule, which made players eligible for the draft only one year after their high school graduation, was instituted in 2005 but was always meant to a temporary fix, with a more permanent solution expected to come in conjunction with the NCAA.
In the meantime, the NCAA suffered a number of black eyes, including an FBI recruiting investigation and, most recently, the treatment of potential top pick and Memphis center James Wiseman, suspended because his mother previously had taken a loan from Tigers coach Penny Hardaway. Wiseman was suspended and left school after playing just three games.
The move away from the NCAA model of player development has been a long time in the making.
“This was only a matter of time,” one prominent agent told Heavy.com. “Agents, players, the league, everyone has been fed up with the NCAA and a lot of the BS that happens. They try to say it is the NBA that corrupts the process, that it is agents, but so many of these coaches have their hands out or they’re writing checks. The league is right to just cut out the middle man in all of this.”
NBA Tired of Players Going Overseas
The move is also a blow to foreign leagues that have been trying to attract young players in an attempt to bolster international interest in their games. That happened with two top prospects this season, point guard LaMelo Ball and forward R.J. Hampton, who signed with Australia’s NBL after they’d decided not to pursue college.
Neither Ball nor Hampton developed very much, though, and the NBA never was supportive of the idea of forcing the best American players to go abroad to prepare for the draft.
Green, who was down to either Memphis or Auburn for his collegiate choices, also was considering the option of playing in Australia. But that’s where the NBA and the G-League stepped in.
As G-League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim told ESPN: “The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn’t have to go somewhere else (abroad) to develop for a year. They should be in our development system.”