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Jalen Green

SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Rockets Guard Jalen Green | SLAM



The SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight is a weekly series covering the 2021 Draft Class. Every Friday, we’ll shine the spotlight on a different rookie who is making an impact, showing their potential or flying under the radar. Follow along throughout the 2021-22 season.

I first saw Jalen Green play basketball during the inaugural SLAM Summer Classic—an exhibition game featuring the best high school prospects from around the country—on August 18, 2018. Well, to be even more exact, I first saw him in our dunk contest a few days earlier, when he and Cassius Stanley put on a show better than most pros do during All-Star Weekend (see below). I knew it then—we all did, really—that the skinny kid from California was bound to be a lottery pick one day. It was only a matter of time.


A year later, Green was back in NYC for Vol. 2 of the Summer Classic. By then, he was a full-blown, undeniable 17-year-old superstar. He had global recognition—especially in the Philippines, as SLAM’s Franklyn Calle writes about here—and more followers on Instagram than the majority of NBA players. He was a five-star recruit in the Class of 2020 with seemingly unlimited potential. We had seen enough. Along with two other promising young guards—Sharife Cooper and Josh Christopher—Green was chosen to be on the cover of the ensuing issue of SLAM. I was there that day in 2019, when the photo here was snapped, and Cooper (now on the Atlanta Hawks) told me this about Green: “Jalen’s somebody that really has a pro body, but a pro skill [level], too. I ain’t really seen too many people like him. Super athletic, bouncy, can shoot. He really got the whole package.”

About a year and a half after that, Green was at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Bay Lake, Florida, shooting for his first solo SLAM cover (check that out here). By then, he was blazing a new, groundbreaking path to the NBA. He had decided to join the G League Ignite—a first-of-its-kind select team—and firmly established himself as one of the top prospects in the 2021 Draft.

Okay, before we continue, I probably should’ve led with this—since the regular season started three days ago, and most rookies have played just sparing minutes of meaningful NBA basketball, this week’s spotlight is focused far more on the overall journey than any recent happenings or developments (we didn’t have much to work with for our power rankings). And while it’s only been three years since that unforgettable dunk contest at the Lifetime Fitness on the West Side of Manhattan, it seems like we’ve been covering Jalen Green for a decade now. Even calling him a “rookie” feels weird. Nonetheless, after being drafted with the No. 2 pick in July, Green just made his NBA debut for the Houston Rockets on Wednesday, finally fulfilling his lifelong dream. And we couldn’t be more excited for him.

Also, we’re expecting big things this season. All that experience—from high school showcases to All-Star Games like the SLAM Summer Classic to his stint in the G League—looks to have prepared Green very, very well for the transition to the NBA.


Earlier this year, we asked him what he had learned from participating in the G League, where he battled against grown men instead of teenagers.

“You gotta have a pace in the game or it’s gonna be so hard for you,” he told us. “In high school, I used to get away with just coming down court, being faster than everybody, being stronger, and now you’re on the court with people who are just as strong as you, or even stronger, or faster than you. So you gotta be smarter about what you’re about to do.

“Just slow down,” he added. “The game is fast, like, on TV, it may not look fast, but when you’re on that court, it’s super-fast and it just happens like that. So it’s just about slowing down. Not even just stopping and going, it’s more like slowing, stopping, seeing what you have, you got 24 seconds, use that 24 seconds.”

Watch Green today and the game does appear to have slowed down for him. His movements come across almost effortless. His skill set, as Cooper alluded to back in 2019, is extensive and extremely polished. At 6-4, Green has the athleticism to blow by guards up top and rise over big men at the rim. He is shifty enough and crafty enough to create space against anyone. He can, and will, pull up from basically anywhere.

Scoring has always come easy for Green—he averaged 17.9 points in the G League and 20.3 points in the Summer League, both with high efficiency—and the opportunities will definitely be there right away in Houston. He and Kevin Porter Jr. comprise the backcourt and will be orchestrating the offense much of the time. With the load he’ll be carrying, and the attention he’ll be attracting from opposing defenses nightly, the scoring won’t come as easily as it has in the past. But if our constant coverage has taught us anything, it’s that Green will figure it out eventually.


During our 2021 photo shoot in Bay Lake, we invited Green to peer into the future—to ponder and ultimately predict what lay ahead for him. How were the next chapters of his story going to unfold?

“The Jalen Green story? Well, hopefully I would have accomplished a lot of accolades in the League,” he said. “Being known as a GOAT or something. Top-three for sure.”

I imagine we’ll revisit that quote sometime down the road. Now, it serves as an important reminder that while we’ve been following Green for what feels like forever, the journey is truly just beginning.

The post SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Jalen Green appeared first on SLAM.

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