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What does Jalen Green need to do to make “the leap”?

Green will need to ascend to new heights in his third season to join the ranks of the league’s best shooting guards.

NBA: Houston Rockets at Phoenix Suns Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

It’s colloquially known as making “The Leap”. What exactly is the leap? I’m not necessarily sure you can precisely define it, but I’ll try my best.

The leap in question is in regards to Jalen Green. Will he? Won’t he? How will Houston Rockets and other NBA fans know?

To me, you just know it when you see it.

It’s when a 24-year-old Dwyane Wade goes for 42 points in Game 3 of the NBA Finals to ignite a comeback from a 2-0 deficit. It’s when you see a 20-year-old Devin Booker go for 70 points, albeit in a loss, to become only the sixth player — at the time — in history to accomplish such a feat. It’s right now in real-time when you see Anthony Edwards refuse to get swept versus the impending champion Denver Nuggets, and then carry that conviction into FIBA play, asserting himself as the best player on Team USA.

Making the leap can’t be calculated from accumulating a specific amount of accolades or reaching a certain threshold in the box score. It’s a combination of those, and more so a collection of supernatural moments that became run-of-the-mill for young, burgeoning athletes.

It’s when the majority recognizes a player has crossed over from being just “a guy” to being “the guy”.

So that brings us back to Jalen Green, a guy who on-paper should encapsulate a piece of many of the game’s greatest to play the shooting guard position. He has agility and burst akin to Wade, a bounce in the stratosphere of Vince Carter, and his numbers aren’t too far off of what Edwards did in his first two seasons.

He’s been likened to Devin Booker and Bradley Beal, and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I saw some glimpses of a young Kobe Bryant before the draft.

My apologies. All Kobe comparisons will go to Rondae Hollis-Jefferson for now on.

Is it fair to hold Green to such high-standards? Yes, considering he went number two in the draft over the likes of Evan Mobley and an overall impressive class behind him. Is it also fair to allow a 21-year-old who hasn’t had the most stable situation around him develop? Also, yes.

That leads me to my next question which is: how much development do we need to see to quantify that Green has made the leap?

Does he need to boost his average to 25 points per game this season to claim the leap has been made? Or is it 28? Does he need to cement himself with an All-Star nod? Are we talking All-NBA at this point? What about averaging a triple-double?

What if he does all those things — an unlikely scenario — yet somehow the team is still stinky?

It’s tough to quantify. His stat line could look great, but naysayers could point to those being “empty stats” if they don’t contribute to winning. Without a concrete science to calibrate being “the guy”, we’re left with the eye test.

So to see what Green needs to do to enter those conversations, let’s take a look at his peers at the shooting guard spot and see what the eye test has told us about them.

To narrow this down, let’s list the players who had legitimate cases of being “the guy” last season. As far as being a top two option on their team we have : Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Bradley Beal, Jaylen Brown, Desmond Bane, Zach LaVine, Anthony Edwards, Dejounte Murray and James Harden.

Let’s take Murray and Harden out of this, understanding that they are actually point guards. Murray is out of position, as he has to yield to Trae Young, and we all know Harden has been initiating offense for over a decade now.

Let’s also eliminate Bane because while he is a great player, you’d be hard pressed to find someone value him over Ja Morant and Jaren Jackson Jr. on the Memphis Grizzlies roster.

Now let’s get down to the nitty gritty. Of the six guys who remain, all are multiple time All-Stars, with the exception of Edwards, who made his first of many last season. LaVine and Edwards are the only ones without an All-NBA nod, but I’ll certainly project the Ant-Man to claim a spot on one of those three teams down the road.

While it is an honor to make one of the three All-NBA teams, to be considered a legitimate franchise player, I believe a player has to be a First or Second Team All-NBA performer. The voting is subjective, and while being voted a top 15 player still means you’re elite, being a top 10 player has a better ring to it.

Why is it important to have a top 10 player besides the obvious reasons? For one, it means that you most likely have a player that impacts winning. The voting tends to skew towards players who have at least put their respective teams in playoff contention.

To drive this home, please consider that the last team to win the NBA Finals without a player being on the First or Second Team was your 1994-95 Houston Rockets. Hakeem Olajuwon was Third Team that year. In fact, you have to go back all the way to the 1988-89 Detroit Pistons to find a team without an All-NBA guy.

So returning to our list, unfortunately for guys like LaVine (zero All-NBA appearances) and Beal (a Third Team appearance), they won’t be cracking the eye test.

Ultimately, the real separator comes down to determining who you can trust to win you enough games in the regular season, plus also being capable of winning you multiple playoff rounds.

Booker has advanced all the way to the NBA Finals as the first option. Brown has made four Eastern Conference Finals and one NBA Finals as he is largely viewed as 1B to Jayson Tatum’s 1A. Mitchell has had his ups and downs in the postseason, but his Second Team All-NBA season leads me to think he can excel with lineups optimized for him. As for Edwards, I still project he falls within this range, and that his ceiling is sky high.

And that’s the range of player that I think will legitimize Jalen Green as “the guy” for the Rockets.

While he doesn't have to do achieve all of these things by the end of year three, Green just needs to demonstrate that he is building towards joining this class of two guards. The leap doesn’t all have to come at once. It could be multiple leaps, a hop, step and jump.

It’s perfectly fine if it takes him four or five years, maybe even longer, for his game to mature into his apex form. Booker wasn't an All-Star until year five. Brown didn’t make All-NBA until year seven. None of them are even 30 yet, so there’s no need to rush. Green simply just needs to keep trending upwards.

How though?

Proving it in the playoffs will be dicey considering the depth of the west this year. With that, making All-NBA is also an uphill battle. However, I think garnering All-Star consideration is something that Green can work towards this season and that would justify optimism of him joining the Mt. Rushmore of today’s Shooting Guards.

Becoming a more efficient and better all-around player, fighting towards playoff/play-in contention, and showing everyone he's one of the top six or seven guards in the west is how Jalen Green makes his case that he is vaulting into “the guy” territory.