Jalen Green is going pro; more high school hoop stars will follow
Jalen Green, ESPN’s top-rated basketball prospect coming out of high school this year, has signed to play in the NBA G League next season. Expect Green to be part of a trend.
With the NBA not allowing players into its draft until they are a year removed from high school, several players have skipped college to sign professionally, particularly overseas. The Thunder’s Terrance Ferguson, who spent a season playing in Australia, is an example.
Green will be part of an NBA pathway program – elite prospects will be paid at least $500,000 and be part of a one-year development program outside the G League's team structure, according to ESPN. Green is the pathway program’s first participant.
ESPN reported that NBA commissioner Adam Silver became determined to get more elite prospects into the G League after 2020 draft class prospects
LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton chose to play in Australia.
“That's a real program that the NBL (Australia) has," Abdur-Rahim told ESPN. "It's appealing. We have kids leaving the United States … to go around the world to play, and our NBA community has to travel there to scout them. That's counterintuitive. The NBA is the best development system in the world, and those players shouldn't have to go somewhere else to develop for a year. They should be in our development system."
The pathway program is another step towards more and more high school players headed straight to the pros. The NBA is expected, in the next two or three years, to again let players go straight from high school to the draft. Until then, more and more figure to jump into the NBA’s minor league.
Green, a guard from Prolific Prep in Napa, California, was a 2020 McDonald’s all-American. He played on USA Basketball’s gold-medal-winning teams in FIBA (the international organizing body for basketball) World Cups of 2019 (under-19) and 2018 (under-17). Green was the MVP of the 2018 FIBA under-17 World Cup in Argentina.
Green had been considering Auburn, Memphis, Oregon, Florida State, Southern Cal and Fresno State, though it’s difficult to ascertain how serious he ever was about college.
“We’re thrilled to welcome a player and a person of Jalen’s caliber to the NBA G League,” said G League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim. “He represents the next generation of NBA players, and we couldn’t be more excited to have him develop his professional skills in our league. Jalen will learn from an NBA-caliber coaching and player development staff as he begins his professional basketball journey in the NBA G League.”
Green will play for a G League team unaffiliated with any existing G League franchise or NBA team, the league announced. Details are forthcoming, but ESPN reported that the program includes professional coaching, top prospects and veteran players who will combine training and exhibition game competitions against the likes of G League teams, foreign national teams and NBA academies throughout the world. The primary objective will be assimilation and growth into the NBA on several levels -- from playing to the teaching of life skills.
The salary bonus structure in Green's contract, for example, is expected to include financial incentives for games played, completing community events and life skills programs coordinated by the G League's oversight of the program.
ESPN said the NBA's plan is to stock this team with veteran pro players who'd be willing to balance mentorship of Green and other prospects with the personal opportunities that might emerge because of the intense NBA scouting exposure that will come with these teams.
Former NBA coach of the year Sam Mitchell is expected to be considered as one of the candidates to lead the team, sources said. Abdur-Rahim and G League executive Rod Strickland were instrumental in developing the program and recruiting prospects to it.
"When you look around the world at the market's that's been created, where we started at $125,000 (annual salary) wasn't enough -- certainly not in itself," Abdur-Rahim told ESPN. "There was also uncertainty about where I would be playing (in the G League). There was uncertainty about whether an affiliated team would be incentivized to develop me. All of that made the program in its original form tougher. You can't isolate any of that. For a top kid with options, that was a tough sell.”
NCAA rules bar players from outside basketball income. That changes for players in the pathway programs. They are free to hire agents, profit from likenesses and pursue shoe contracts.