Jalen Green, much like the Houston Rockets, has had an up-and-down season with more lows than highs. For a rookie and rebuilding franchise, that’s to be expected, and no reason for alarm. The Rockets wanted to be bad, and rookies, especially those that cannot legally enjoy alcohol, are usually useless NBA players.
Rooting for a bad NBA team takes a certain level of resolve and creativity. There are precious few moments of genuinely good basketball to cling to, which forces fans to either accept reality and be depressed, or create a reality where optimism reigns supreme. On the flip side, cheering on a contender is incredibly easy and enthralling (which likely explains the relation between winning and attendance).
Take the NBA-leading Suns as an example. They’re awesome, they win all the time, and there’s never a silver lining because every time they grace the court it turns to gold. The reason for optimism is right there for all to see and it takes no explanation or imagination.
However, when a team truly stinks, kernels of optimism have to be mined from whatever sources are available. Perhaps the best examples are studio in-game stat dumps. We’ve all seen them, they’re the “Christian Wood averages 25 points a game on the second Tuesday after a full moon,” drops of statistical nonsense otherwise known as happy coincidences.
But what if I told you there was a bad statistic that was actually a good sign?
Getting your shot blocked is hardly a good thing. It’s a shot that is for sure getting zero points, and it’s why blocked shots are a coveted stat. However, the list of players that have been blocked the most contains some of the world’s best players.
Ja Morant occupies the top spot, Trae Young, Karl Anthony-Towns, and Jayson Tatum are four through six, James Harden and Russell Westbrook are eight and nine, DeMar DeRozan and Jaylen Brown are 11 and 12, and Tyler Herro, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jalen Green, and Joel Embiid are 14 through 17.
If you’re thinking that the names in the top-17 that were left out were cherry-picked to prove a point, you’re sorely mistaken. Jaren Jackson Jr., Franz Wagner, Darius Bazley, RJ Barrett, and Tobias Harris are no one’s definition of scrubs. (Well, except for Bazley.) Going further down the list you see Devin Booker in 21st, Giannis Antetpkounmpo in 24th, and Nikola Jokic in 30th.
Getting blocked may be a bad individual outcome for a play, but, counterintuitively, getting blocked a lot tends to be a good indicator of how good a player is.
The reasoning is relatively straightforward. Most blocked shots occur near the rim and getting a bunch of shots at the rim is really good. They’re higher percentage chances, are more likely to lead to free throws, and have a higher instance of turning into an offensive rebound.
Green is constantly getting blocked because he is constantly attacking the rim. For players listed as either a shooting guard or point guard, Green is 15th in the rate of shots he attempts at the rim. What makes this even more impressive is that out of that group he’s fourth in 3-point attempt rate.
Green hasn’t yet learned how to turn his opportunities at the rim into points through buckets and/or free throws, but the fact that he’s getting there is more than half the battle. His ability to get to the rim is rare for a guard and should serve him well as he rounds out his game and gains experience.
The next time you watch a Rockets game don’t fret when Jalen Green gets blocked. Throw your arms up in celebration. Getting blocked is a good thing. In a last-place season, it’s the silver lining that may just end up being gold.