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Draft experts weigh in on Jalen Green’s improvement and his future potential

We talked to three experts about Houston’s top rookie.

Houston Rockets v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

There is 1:32 left in the game, and the Houston Rockets have a 119-112 lead vs. one of the NBA’s best teams, the Memphis Grizzlies. The Rockets have possession, and a basket would put this game on ice. Christian Wood and Kevin Porter Jr. are having monster games. The Rockets, however, look to their second overall pick Jalen Green to close out the game.

A pick is set to get Brandon Clarke onto Green, and the rookie does not hesitate. Green goes right into his dribble moves, puts Clarke on skates, and hits a midrange stepback right in Clarke's face to finish off the Grizzlies and help the Rockets snap a 12-game losing streak.

This was not the case earlier in the year. Like any rookie, Jalen Green's game has taken time to get to the point where he is becoming the team's closer. Green has been learning on the fly, only playing 15 games last year in the G-League and not a second in college. So the first part of the season was for hard Green.

He averaged 14.3 points on 37.2 percent shooting overall and only 29.5 percent shooting from deep. At times, Green was hesitant and not sure how to attack the defense. However, in the last 13 games, Green is averaging 18.5 points while shooting 47.7 percent from the field and 36.1 percent from 3-point range. Green is more assertive during this stretch and demanding the ball in the half-court.

It hasn't just been about his scoring. Two games ago, Green set a career-high mark in assists with 7. In addition, Green is becoming more of a playmaker as teams are starting to pay more attention to him on the offensive end.

For this article, I wanted to ask some draft experts about Jalen Green's improvement from his AAU days until now. Each of these draft analysts has watched Green for years, so I ask them their impressions of Green's development over that time.

When was the first time you saw Jalen Green play, and what was your first impression of him?

Corey Tulaba (@CoreyTulaba)

I've been following Jalen since he was in high school. I was immediately impressed by his athleticism and his ability to create space and generate shots off the bounce. The shot selection was iffy, to say the least, and I often felt he wasn't aggressive enough attacking the hoop. But the natural gifts he had as an offensive weapon were apparent even back then.

Richard Stsyman (@MavsDraft)

The first game last year of the bubble vs. Santa Cruz. I wasn't sold on his defense or handle, but the athleticism popped so clearly. Said explosive athleticism helped him a lot in finishing at the rim against and over shot contests

Keandre Ashley (@HoopIntelllect)

I believe my first introduction to him was when he burst on the scene as a 15/16-year-old, so probably through his Ballislife mixtape. The first actual games I remember watching were one in the state tourney with San Joaquin and then later on with WhyNot in the EYBL.

Obviously, the first thing I was drawn to is athleticism. Just an unbelievable athlete, especially when he was 15. There have been very few as athletic as he was at that age. He had some real scoring chops as well, but everything was still a bit rawer than the highlights would've suggested, but he had the potential to be special.

Were you concerned at all when Green struggled to start the year?

Corey Tulaba (@CoreyTulaba)

Not at all. I even wrote about why there wasn’t a need to panic despite his slow start relative to some of the other rookies in the class for a piece at No Ceilings. If you look at some of the guards that Jalen gets compared to (Booker/Lavine), they’ve historically taken a few years to find their footing and mesh their skills with a team that compliments them. The Jalen Green payoff was never going to happen in year one.

Richard Stsyman (@MavsDraft)

A little bit. I think the G-League hid some of his flaws and played to his strengths more than the NBA, so it was somewhat expected for me.

Keandre Ashley (@HoopIntelllect)

Not really. Of course, you would've liked to see him get off to a fast start that looked more like Summer League but for a scoring guard who is still skinny, in a situation with a first-year "point guard" and fluctuating offensive responsibilities, it just made sense to see him struggle a bit. I would've been more concerned if we didn't still see the 30-point game against Boston, late stretch against the Lakers, or the other moments he showed that scoring prowess that made him the number two pick

What has been the most significant difference in Green's game from playing high school/G-League ball until now?

Corey Tulaba (@CoreyTulaba)

His improvements with his handle from HS to now are also very apparent. But on a grander scale, while he’s not there yet, I think he’s starting to get better every day at understanding where the help is going to come from after he breaks down his man one-on-one.

Guys like Green are too good to guard with just one guy, so understanding where he can find open space to get into his shot instead of barreling into the second or third guy rotating to him. Part of that is how much more comfortable he is playing at different speeds. Going slow to fast, high to low, can really warp a defense. Green is really starting to show flashes of the advanced scoring threat he’s going to be one day.

Richard Stsyman (@MavsDraft)

I think the passing flashes are pretty promising when they're shown. He still needs to work on consistently making tough passes, but he can recognize them and land them occasionally. In the G-League, the toughest passes he made were pick-and-roll sets, whereas this is more freelance creation.

Keandre Ashley (@HoopIntelllect)

I'd say the biggest things that we've seen out of him starting when he transferred to Prolific prep for his senior year is his progression as a shooter and as a playmaker. Now those things aren't necessarily going to show up in his rookie season stat line, but there's been an awful lot of progress made there, and as I'm sure you've noticed, when he has gotten the opportunity to handle the ball, he's actually someone you project well as a secondary ball-handler, which really popped his senior year. Now he's making it happen with more regularity in the league

Finish this sentence. If Green improves (this area of his game), he will lead the league in scoring at some point in his career.

Corey Tulaba (@CoreyTulaba)

His ability to get to the free-throw line consistently.

Richard Stsyman (@MavsDraft)

Catch and shoot threes.

Keandre Ashley (@HoopIntelllect)

As a driver. If he can continue to do a lot of what's made this recent stretch so great, getting downhill and eventually to the free-throw line at a higher clip, he's going to be in that conversation. That'll come with some physical development too, but if he can be a constant rim pressure, he'll only be tougher to contain with his handle and natural perimeter shot-creating ability.

Last question. Jalen Green’s ceiling is...

Corey Tulaba (@CoreyTulaba)

An All-NBA guard.

Richard Stsyman (@MavsDraft )

Perennial All-star and scoring champ.

Keandre Ashley (@HoopIntelllect)

All-Star with real All-NBA potential. Hard not to look at Beal, LaVine, Booker realm, or at least slightly below as somewhere he could eventually reach as a guy who just turned 20.

As you can see, Green had the spotlight on him for years now, well before he stepped on an NBA court. When it's that much pressure, some players can't handle it. Green, however, is starting to show how special his abilities are, and he is beginning to show the rest of the NBA that this hot streak is only the beginning.

I want to say thank you to Corey Tulaba, Richard Stsyman, and Keandre Ashley for taking the time out of their busy days to assist in this article. Make sure to check out all their outstanding work in covering the NBA and College scouting!