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Player Focus: Jalen Green

It was during Episode 27 of our show in late 2021 when I went on the record as saying I believed Jalen Green would be the best player from the 2021 Draft Class.

The jury is still well and truly debating whether he will earn that title as his career goes on, what with Cade Cunningham unfortunately projected to miss the rest of this season and Scottie Barnes failing to take a leap forward after a stellar rookie year.

Evan Mobley has been good but has failed to make a major splash in his sophomore season thus far, while Australian wonder-kid Josh Giddey continues to put up the most bizarre combination of statistical milestones the NBA’s social media department can keep track of, but is, like Barnes, pretty much a carbon copy of his rookie-self.

Through 27 games this season, Green has not only shown statistical improvement, but also a huge improvement that is easily noticed via the eye test. His points per game is up from 17.3 to 21.8, he is dishing out an extra assist per contest, grabbing an extra board and while his usage has gone up and he is attempting an additional 3.5 field goals a night, his percentages have remained almost identical to what they were last season (42.6% last season compared to 41.8% this season). As I said above though, the eye test is where Green’s improvement really shines.

Coming into the league, we knew Green was an explosive athlete and scorer from his time in the G-League Ignite, and this remains his MO in the NBA. Like many young players who enter the league, he struggled early, particularly when his outside shot wasn’t falling, with a tendency to try and force things on the offensive end. As his rookie campaign drew to a close however, Green showed that his mind had adjusted to the NBA’s pace and physicality, utilising his explosiveness to blow by perimeter defenders before making the right play while driving rather than attacking the rim with reckless abandon at every opportunity.

Don’t get me wrong though, Green still absolutely does this at times, but he’s far more calculated and in control when he does decide to push the envelope and challenge the oppositions bigs in the paint.

Jalen Green has made steady improvement in his game since the half-way point of his rookie season.

His number one preference when driving the lane is to rise up and use his extreme athleticism to throw down a powerful dunk if possible, but when he can’t cleanly get to his launching pad, much like the rest of the league, Green has developed an effective euro-step. Not only does the euro-step effectively allow smaller players to get opponents off balance and force them to turn their body into less-than-ideal positions, it ironically allows Green to utilise his athleticism once again and launch off one leg to find an angle to get his shot away.

Once he’s found that angle, he’s one of the more unorthodox finishers in the league in some respects, too. Whereas most players driving right would euro-step off their right foot, then onto their left and elevate to finish with their left hand, Green has a habit of still attempting to finish with his right. In one respect, this makes his shot easier to block as his body doesn’t form a barrier between it and the defender, but it’s also a crafty decision if he’s able to manoeuvre and use the rim to protect his shot by finishing on the far side.

When Green is able to do this, finishing with his right hand enables him to get his shot onto the glass or above the cylinder quicker than with his left, theoretically making it a harder shot to block. It looks unorthodox and often sees him almost reaching behind his head to complete, but Green seems to be comfortable making this look. It also means his body is on all sorts of weird angles as he attempts to finish, and on several occasions this season I have seen defenders bamboozled and foul him in this moment, helping him get to the line for easy buckets.

It’s hardly fine art or even a fundamentally sound and refined basketball move, but Green is able to make it work more often than not. It’s the type of thing I can see becoming somewhat of a signature move and finish in the coming years.

Will a leaning back, over the head, right-handed lay-up become Jalen Green's signature move as his career goes on?

I want to finish with a final thought about Green and the way he’s been playing of late. He simply looks comfortable in everything he does on the court and is taking his time when sizing up opponents, thinking his way through situations and more often than not making the right decision. As with any young player, there are multiple areas to improve as he gets older, but his recent 30-point performance against the Milwaukee Bucks highlights the improvements he’s made to his mid-range and deep range shooting, as well as thought process when deciding to attack the rim.

He looks smooth. He looks good.

I discussed on a yet-to-be-released podcast episode with Hunter a week or so ago that Green’s shot looks like it’s going in every time. Against the 76ers earlier this month in overtime, despite being off balance and fading to his right over multiple defenders, he rose up and the shot released in a way which made me think “this is going in”. It didn’t on this occasion, but there is only one other player I can remember really thinking that way about when their shot went up – the late Kobe Bryant.

I’m not comparing the two in any way other than to say I get that eerie feeling the shot is going in every time it goes up, regardless of their percentages. If my gut is correct though and Green develops that ability to close out games in the toughest of moments, the Rocket shave got themselves a genuine star.

So what do you think?

Let me know by signing up for an account and commenting on this post, or by emailing the show at!

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