Where Jalen Green Needs to Improve
The level of talent in the NBA is the highest it has ever been. Simply averaging 30 points per game doesn’t make you a top-15 player anymore. To be truly elite, Jalen Green will need to develop as a passer and/or defender to become a true superstar.
Green’s easiest path to superstardom is to weaponize his already excellent scoring into elite playmaking. For his rookie season, Green averaged 2.6 assists per game and a 13.1% assist rate. For a player taking 14.2 field goal attempts a game, those are paltry passing totals.
However, much like Green’s scoring ticked up in the second half, so too did his passing numbers. In his first 35 games, he averaged 2.2 assists and an 11.8% assist rate, but over his final 32, those marks ticked up to 3.1 and 14.8%. What’s even more promising is that he cut his turnovers over that same period, going from 2.3 turnovers to 1.7. Now that’s change we can believe in.
Jalen Green the playmaker needs to be leaned into next season. He’s shown enough as a scorer and passer that he needs to be the focal point of the offense. If Green can become an above-average to elite playmaker and combine it with elite scoring he’ll be one of the top-10 offensive players in the league.
Coming to a conclusion on Green’s defense is a difficult task. The Rockets were nearly the worst defensive team in the league, and one bad defender can make another, more competent defender, look helpless. It’s safe to assume that Green is not a plus defender right now, and if he becomes the focal point of the offense it’s unlikely he’ll have the energy to be a plus on both ends.
Green has the physical traits to become a good point-of-attack defender, but to be elite, it requires a tremendous amount of energy that simply can’t be expected out of a player tasked with doing the heavy lifting on offense. As he adds strength he should become an average defensive player with the ability to be elite in necessary spurts. However, that is likely years away and not a given to occur.
Jalen Green Season Review
Jalen Green’s second half turnaround should have made him a candidate for the most improved player award. This is not an overstatement, he went from the worst player in the NBA to a player that could be counted on to score 20 efficient points, all while improving his passing and cutting his turnovers.
Through 33 games, Green had a box plus/minus of -5.8, which at the time, was the worst of all qualified players. He finished the season with a -2.9 BPM, with -2.4 coming from defense, which is greatly influenced by overall team defense. Green’s rookie season has put him on track to be an All-Star in a hurry, and the All-NBA team may only be a few seasons away.
Jalen Green had a poor rookie season from an overall production standpoint, but it was excellent through a developmental lens. Growth is a skill and Green has proven to be near-elite at it. With his elite athleticism, rapidly developing skills, and proclivity to grow Green had a fantastic rookie season. Whether he makes the All-Rookie first team or not, he proved he'll be one of the five best players from a stacked 2021 NBA Draft class.