How else to begin? This is painful. There is no joy in this article. If you’re looking for something festive, spend some time with your family.
Perhaps the Grinch stole Jalen Green’s game. Rational explanations are hard to come by. At least, non-painful ones are. Here’s the reality:
Jalen Green may not pan out.
His fans will get myopic. He’s had some 25-point games in 2023-24. His defense is improving! Yes. Green has leaped from an unfathomably poor defender to a poor defender.
Hang the banner.
How does the big picture look? The Rockets are -13.7 points per possession worse when Green is on the floor. Pain. Pain and endless suffering.
Why is this happening?
What’s wrong with Green?
Green is supposed to be a scorer. That’s how he was advertised - it’s how he advertised himself.
“I’m a bucket”.
Sorry - from which part of the floor? Green is shooting 45.3 percent on two-point field goal attempts. That includes a ghastly 32.4 percent from 3-10 feet. He’s shooting 33.1 percent from long-range. Trust me, you don’t want to cross-reference those numbers with players around the league. They’re bad.
Green may be improving as a defender, but he’s still a poor defender. He’s added a passing read or two to his game, but he’s still a limited passer. If he’s not scoring - often and efficiently - he’s not doing much. All of this has culminated in a Box Plus/Minus (BPM) of -1.2.
That number doesn’t compare favorably to his peers either - or his historical precedents. It’s often been argued that guards take longer to develop. I’ve made that argument myself. Guys like Zach LaVine, Jaylen Brown, Devin Booker and De’Aaron Fox all had long developmental curves.
LaVine had a 0.1 BPM in his third year. Fox was at 2.1, and Booker was at 0.9. All hope is not lost - Brown’s mark was -2.1. Brown broke out in his fourth year. Green could do the same. Still, the history of negative impact third-year players developing into stars is fairly bleak.
Yet, comparison is - here we go again - the thief of joy. All of these players had a variety of contextual factors that impacted their play. Is something holding Green back?
Are the Rockets minimizing Green?
We’ve got a classic chicken-and-egg dilemma here. Side note: which did come first? It truly is a mind-boggling question. How did a chicken come from an egg before a chicken could make an egg? It doubles back to St. Thomas Aquinas’s first cause theory. God must have created the first chicken or egg. Perhaps (S)he could lend Green some divine intervention.
Alternatively, that might be overkill. Ime Udoka could design more sets to get Green open looks. Sure. Green is shooting 40.5 percent on field goals that NBA.com defines as “wide open”. He’s shooting 31.6 percent on “wide open” three-pointers. This is the chicken and the egg. Is Green struggling because Udoka isn’t maximizing him or is Udoka not maximizing him because he’s struggling?
Why would Udoka design sets for a player who’s unlikely to capitalize on them? More broadly, and once more, Green is supposed to be a self-starter. He was billed as a player who’d be able to get baskets in any system. Green isn’t supposed to be a system player. He’s supposed to be such a potent offensive player that he enhances any system.
Can he ever reach that place?
Is Green a lost cause?
Sure, he can reach that place. Yes, he can. But will he?
We don’t know. At a base level, it doesn’t look good. Green does not project to be a star player. That’s just a fact. Odds change in real time. A team may enter a game as the favorite, but if they’re down by 15 with six minutes left, guess what? The smart money is on the other team now.
Green is down 15 with six minutes on the clock. It isn’t over yet, but he’s going to have to work overtime. His margin for error has narrowed significantly. The Rockets need to know what they have soon. If Green was extension-eligible at this moment, you’d let him hit restricted free agency. You’d likely retain him on a one-year prove-it deal in the vicinity of what? $5 million?