It’s been a long recruiting road for California native and consensus five-star 2020 wing Jalen Green. A number of schools made their pitch and were looked upon as once-favorites to land the number three prospect in the 2020 class according to the composite ranking.
However, Thursday afternoon, Green announced that he is going pro and joining the NBA G-League development program. This deal will place him in a program outside of the traditional G-League team structure and will pay him $500,000 for the year and give him the opportunity to make money from his likeness.
Green is also not the only elite player in the 2020 class. Five-star forward Isaiah Todd has also announced that he will forego his college eligibility and join Green in the G-League.
This decision comes at a very important time in college basketball, where it seems like controversy is the new norm, as well as the NBA, where two stars from the 2019 class, LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton, are set to become NBA lottery picks after playing for a season in Australia’s NBL.
So who really wins in all of this? The answer is pretty simple: everyone.
Green & players like him who will also choose this route are benefitting well from being in the NBA’s developmental program and have opportunities given to them that they otherwise would not see in college while still having a direct line to the NBA Draft.
And these players should be given the opportunity to do things that they cannot in college. Through social media, the online age, summer travel ball and shoe circuits these players are able to develop a brand for themselves before they even graduate high school. If you don’t think that it’s significant, go to a high-level high school basketball event or a weekend at the Nike EYBL, Adidas Gauntlet, or Under Armour Association. These are huge events that draw massive crowds to see guys like Green. All of this is a newer phenomenon in the sports world, but has a particularly huge affect on college basketball and the game as a whole.
Green is nearing the 900k follower mark on Instagram and has over 50k followers on Twitter. His videos on YouTube have incredible viewership and in the basketball culture, particularly among the younger portion of the community, he is a well-known name and brand. And among that younger community, he is better-known and has more notoriety than the programs that he was being recruited to play for. And we have recently seen a string of players before him with huge followings before they hit the college floor: guys like Zion Williamson, Collin Sexton, and Marvin Bagley.
We are nearing a point in the basketball timeline where the player brand carries more weight than anything else. The player is where the entertainment value lies, which at the end of the day, is the money maker. The new generation of fans are becoming more and more tied to players than to teams, which gives even more value to these elite up-and-comers.
The G-League & NBA also win here. They now have a huge draw to their games and a true trailblazer to come in and pave the way for more players to do this. Has this happened before? Sure, but Green is easily the most high-profile to do so. We all know that in the coming years players will be able to jump straight to the NBA, but the G-League will still be a very prominent landing spot moving forward for high school players making the jump. G-League president Shareef Abdur-Rahim has been very adamant about the G-League being a very viable option and the best development system for players trying to make it to the NBA. This could bolster that claim tenfold.
Lastly, college basketball wins here too. It may not seem like the college game benefits, but college basketball is going to have to get used to this being a regular thing again. The quantity of one-and-done players will soon be dwindling down with more and more choosing the pro route, which could give a lot of these college programs more stability, which could in turn help the issue with transfers and all of the moving parts that the college game currently has.
The bottom-line of all of this is that it can be a good thing for all parties involved. However, if you’re the basketball purist that is stuck in the past, your mindset is going to have to make a shift because this is going to be a new normal, with more and more elite players choosing to play professional basketball and capitalize off of the brand that the culture is allowing them to build sooner than they ever could in the past.