A closer look at 2020's No. 1 ranked player Jalen Green
Beginning with LeBron James in 2003, a total of five shooting guards have finished ranked at the top of their graduating class. Could current 2020 No. 1 Jalen Green hold onto the top spot from wire to wire and make it six? Who is involved in his recruitment and how does he compare at the same age to the other 14 shooting guards who finished ranked in the national top five between 2003 and 2018?
THE SCOUTING REPORT
Lean and explosive, Green is a 6-foot-5 scoring machine out of Fresno (Calif.) San Joaquin Memorial who makes the game look effortless.
Chief in that ability to make things look easy is how quick his first step is. Yes, he plays predominately to his strong hand, but he’s also a very good ball handler who defenders simply can’t stay in front of because of his quickness and elite athleticism. Naturally, because he’s a high-flyer, Green is a big-time finisher at the rim, gets to the free throw line at a pretty good rate and he’s a crowd-pleasing dunker in transition.
Though Green has a good looking jump shot and range, he doesn’t yet shoot a high percentage from beyond the three point line or his pull-up jumper. Much of that has to do with shot selection, some of it is a lack of strength and some of it is relying too much on his ability to drive. He’s not yet a big-time defender, but with his athletic gifts and natural instincts he can be once he puts some focus on that end.
The question is, can he retain the No. 1 ranking all the way through to April of 2020? Given how good those right behind him – particularly No. 2 Scottie Barnes and No. 3 Evan Mobley who both have very legitimate claims for the top spot – Green is going to have to kick things into overdrive. As good as he is, an argument can be made that he’s not improved at the same rate as those right behind him. An argument can also be made that Green makes things look so easy that he can be a victim of his own talent, meaning just how difficult some of the things he does can be taken for granted.
Regardless, Green is going to have to continue take his game to another level if he wants to fight off the competition for much longer.
WHO IS INVOLVED?
For a while, it looked like the class of 2020 would be the first to benefit from the NBA changing their Draft rules and allowing high school players to go straight to the League. If that was going to happen, Green was up front that he was thinking much more about the NBA than college. Now it doesn’t look like players will be able to go from high school to the NBA until the class of 2021 which means Green is most likely headed to college.
Because it looked like he may be thinking NBA, Green probably hasn’t been recruited as aggressively as one might expect a player of his caliber to be. I can’t blame coaches here, I doubt I would have been putting much time into recruiting a guy who appeared to want to skip college.
So, it’s way too early to tell where he might be leaning. Arizona, California, Creighton, Florida State, Fresno State, Kansas, Memphis, Oregon, San Diego State, UCLA, UNLV, USC, Villanova, Washington and more have offered while Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina have all been in touch.
July should reveal a lot about who is going to actually prioritize him now that he’s a viable recruit. For now, though, consider him wide open.
COMPARING HIM TO HIGHLY RATED SHOOTING GUARDS OF THE PAST
Since 2003, the other 14 shooting guards to finish ranked in the top five of the Rivals150 are, LeBron James (No. 1 2003), Gerald Green (No. 1 2005), Austin Rivers (No. 1 2011), Shabazz Muhammad (No. 1 2012), Josh Jackson (No. 1 2016), Eric Gordon (No. 2 2007), Shannon Brown (No. 3 2003), DeMar DeRozan (No. 3 2008), Cameron Reddish (No. 3 2018), Avery Bradley (No. 4 2009), Brad Beal (No. 4 2011), Martell Webster (No. 5 2005), Scotty Hopson (No. 5 2008) and Markelle Fultz (No. 5 2016).
Clearly, Green is not better than James was at the same stage in his high school career. By the summer between his sophomore and junior seasons, James had already established himself as once-in-a-lifetime prospect and we may never see a prospect like him again for as long as Rivals.com ranks players. He was bigger, stronger, more skilled, you name it. He was LeBron James.
Others who I would say were better than Green at the same age would be Jackson, Gordon, DeRozan and maybe Beal. Jackson was a freaky athlete with a motor like few I have ever scouted and he was every bit as good, perhaps even better, defensively as he was on the offensive end. Gordon was perhaps an inch or two shorter than Green at the same age, but his polish, jump shooting and ability to bruise off the dribble were ahead of Green. DeRozan was simply a freak show in transition who never got the credit he deserved for the in-between game that his turned him into an All-Star. Then there’s Beal. You may ask “But EBoss, Beal was ranked lower than Austin Rivers in the class of 2011. How could he be better than Green at the same age but not Rivers?” Simple. I always preferred Beal to Rivers because of his pure scoring, skill and toughness. However, I was outvoted in the rankings process.
The takeaway here is that heading into his junior year of high school, Green is arguably one of the top six or seven shooting guard prospects -- in comparison to ranking -- at that stage of his development of the Rivals.com era. It’s all there for him to be a special player, an immediate impact college player and a very early pick in the NBA Draft if he continues along the path he’s been on through his first two years of high school.