Why we shouldn't worry about Rockets' Jalen Green
By Asad Rizvi
Houston Rockets guard Jalen Green’s sophomore season can almost be summed up succinctly in one word: inconsistency. While he has achieved higher peaks this season, having three 40-point games and ten 30-point games, his lows have been disappointing and oftentimes head-scratching.
Perhaps there is no better illustration of this fact than this 4-game stretch from January 18th to January 25th:
So, this naturally begs the question, what is going on? How can a player go from absurd dominance in one game to inefficient shot-chucking the next game?
While there is a myriad of answers we can turn to, the most glaring one is his shot selection. Per basketball-reference.com, Jalen Green has gone from having 44% of his twos and 66% of his threes assisted last season to just 35% and 57% this year respectively. Essentially, he’s being asked to self-create far more than a guard of his small stature typically is.
For example, another guard who was skinny entering the NBA was Stephen Curry and he was assisted on a whopping 77% of his three-point attempts through his first three seasons. The lack of plays and overall structure of the Rockets' offense has led to our off-ball shooting guard having to carry a creation load that frankly, he wasn’t even drafted to carry. Magnifying his off-ball ability should be a massive priority for the coaching staff next season when they inevitability rework this offense.
Despite the outside factors affecting Jalen’s numbers, is what he is doing unprecedented? Where do his scoring numbers rank historically when it comes to a shooting guard’s first few seasons?
Surprisingly, he’s actually still on a remarkable pace. As Twitter user BiasedHouston pointed out:
Let’s expand on these numbers for a moment. Not only does Jalen have the third-highest points per game, but he also has the highest true shooting percentage of any guard on the list.
Why it's too early to worry about Houston Rockets star Jalen Green
However, it’s slightly inaccurate and unfair to compare efficiency across different time periods without adjusting for the era that each of these players played. In order to do that, we can use a stat called relative true shooting (rTS%).
Relative true shooting essentially compares the player’s true shooting to the average true shooting of the NBA during that time. I took it one step further and calculated the relative true shooting for each player respective to the average true shooting at their position, which in this case is shooting guards.
Relative True Shooting
Immediately it is obvious that each of these players had a negative rTS%, which means that they weren’t yet efficient when compared to the average shooting guard in the NBA at that time. Young NBA guards being inefficient is no new phenomenon and will likely continue as 19 and 20-year-old players simply need time to adjust to the NBA.
Jalen is below Booker but has the second-highest rTS% on the list. He is well on pace with budding stars such as Anthony Edwards and All-Stars like Donovan Mitchell.
Even with all the dysfunction and alleged discomfort in Houston, Jalen is still on track to be an all-star someday if all goes well. So, what’s going on with Jalen Green?
Perhaps it really is nothing to worry about and our expectations were just too high for a sophomore shooting guard. Or, maybe we’ve held him back and one can only dream of what his scoring numbers could be like once he’s placed in a better position to succeed.
Regardless, it’s ultimately up to Jalen to achieve his potential and I, for one, am excited to see it.