With the season in the rearview, the Houston Rockets will once again turn their attention to the top of the NBA Draft. While their own pick has yet to be determined, it is guaranteed to be in the top five and will be supported by the 17th overall pick via the Brooklyn Nets.
The 2022 NBA Draft will provide the Rockets with another infusion of young talent, but it’s their first selection in the 2021 NBA Draft and the second overall, Jalen Green, that is already solidified as a franchise building block.
Jalen Green’s rookie season was a tale of two halves. In the first half, he was by many measures the worst player in the NBA, but in the second half, he showed steady improvement before exploding down the stretch.
Jalen Green’s Bad Beginning
Jalen Green was objectively terrible to start his NBA career. His production stunk, and the team stunk when he was on the court. Making matters worse, as soon as he went out with a hamstring injury the Rockets ripped off a seven-game winning streak. In fact, over the 15 games that Green missed, the Rockets went 8-7.
Over his first 35 games, he had ten games that bested the league average offensive rating of 112, eight games above 0 offensive box plus/minus, and five games with a game score above 15. It all added up to 14.1 points per game on 37% shooting from the field and 28.7% from 3-point range.
If Green wasn’t a 19-year-old rookie and the second overall pick, he simply wouldn’t have been allowed to rack up the 30.1 minutes a game he was playing. However, the narrative that he was a bust was premature, but it did raise legitimate concerns about his long-term upside.
Over the past decade, there are essentially no top-five picks that bomb that hard in their rookie season and end up as All-NBA quality players. A few have turned it around and become All-Star level players, but Green topping out as an All-Star, while an exceptional outcome, would feel like a letdown.
Fortunately for Green and the Rockets, he used the final 32 games of the season to completely change his trajectory.