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Rockets 2022-23 player recaps: Jalen Green

The Rockets’ star sophomore gave us reason to hope

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Houston Rockets
Will Jalen Green lead the Rockets to the promised land?
Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

There’s a lot of talk about Jalen Green. A lot of it is entirely superfluous.

He paints his nails. OK? So much handwringing from guys who were too old to learn how to Dougie. If you’ve never done a Fortnite dance, sit this one out.

Besides, you sound homophobic.

With that out of the way, let’s talk basketball. Even the analysis of Green’s season on that front tends to be superficial. He’s a chucker. He doesn’t play defense. This is not a winning basketball player, and he never will be.

Right. Right. Right. Wrong. Dead wrong. There are plenty of reasons to believe that, in time, Green can be a meaningful contributor to winning basketball.

Sure, the basic counting stats weren’t remarkable. Although, it is worth noting that 22.1 points per game are a lot to score for a sophomore.

Let’s talk about points per game. They are the casual fan’s catnip. Anyone with a modicum of advanced basketball knowledge knows that we don’t solely measure players by points per game.

At the same time, contextually, 22.1 is a good mark. This is a sophomore with no point guard. The Rockets had the second-worst defense in the league, so Green’s transition opportunities were limited. When you’re a top-five run-and-jump athlete in the entire NBA, transition is supposed to be your bread and butter.

Instead, there was Green, routinely choking down unbuttered bread. Given that he spent his season grinding out half-court possessions without a point guard by his side, those 22.1 points per game mean something.

The efficiency was lacking. Green’s 53.8 True Shooting percentage (TS%) was suboptimal. Mainly, poor three-point efficiency was to blame. If Green is going to be a superstar, he’s going to have to hit more than 33.8 percent of his threes.

Sure, he can get to the rim at will in a way that few others can. Still, the reason that Ja Morant can get away with being a subpar shooter is that he’s got exceptional floor vision. Green flashed some passing chops throughout the season, but there’s no reason to believe he’ll be Morant.

To be an elite offensive player, he’ll need more tools. He can’t just drive and dunk his way to that status. With that said, a deeper dive suggests that he won’t have to.

According to BBall Index, Green was in the 4.7th percentile in their Three Point Openness metric. Doesn’t that correspond with the eye test? How many last-second heaves to beat the shot clock did Green put up this year?

Speaking of Index, there are some encouraging, nay, tantalizing stats that should make you feel good about Green. He landed in the 98.1st percentile in Three-Point Shot Creation. Green also fell in the 93.5th percentile in their One on One Talent metric, and the 97.1st in their Rim Shot Creation metric.

What does it all mean? It means Green can create his own shot. The kid doesn’t have a first step - he’s got a shapeshift. Green bends time and destroys space to get from one spot to another on the floor. He can create his own looks at will. Imagine how he’ll look when he’s got someone to create looks for him.

I’m not going to tell you that Green had a flawless season. His shot selection needs improvement. Green showed promise in terms of on-ball defense, but he got lost off the ball far too often.

How much of that can be attributed to the Rockets’ flagrant tank job? Who’s to say? Was coaching a culprit? Possibly.

Next year will answer many questions about Green’s moxy. With a proper offseason, it’ll answer a lot about his potential for on-court production, too.

Something tells me he’ll be silencing his doubters - with a single, painted nail to his lips.