OKC Thunder: G-League option for top draft prospects could alter future

Jalen Green #14 of Team Zion dunks (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
Jalen Green #14 of Team Zion dunks (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) /

The OKC Thunder and the NBA world see their first test cases of high profile prospects opting to go to the G-League rather than college

The college basketball world received a huge shock earlier this week when top prospect Jalen Green elected to go straight to the G-League out of high school. Rather than a top blue blood college, or even overseas. The OKC Thunder and the rest of the NBA will have to learn how to evaluate him.

Jalen Green is ranked number one on ESPN’s 2020 top 100 prospects list. That afforded him the chance to go to any university he would ever desire. Not only is he considered the 2021 NBA Draft’s first overall pick, some say in a murky 2020 class, but he would also be taken off the board with the first pick this year if it was within the rules.

The G-League will pay him out at least $500,000. This is a project the NBA and G-League have tried to start for a couple of years now. It keeps players not only within the states if they choose to want to cash in on their talents, but it also props up an NBA property while doing so.

Jalen Green will have access to professional coaching, top prospects, and veteran players to help him develop and prepare for the 2022 NBA Draft. All that coming without the free labor in college, the pointless classes, and other distractions.

The G-League will also provide him a college fund, to ensure that if his hoop dreams do not pan out, he still has the scholarship to fall back on and return to school.

The NBA and G-League are building a team around this new program. That team will be stocked with “veteran pro players” and led by NBA level coaching and will take on G-League teams for exhibition games. These games will not count against the G-League squads in the standings but still provide a true game environment.

While the official plan does not have all the details hammered out, one thing is for sure, Jalen Green will get paid half a million dollars, at least, to play basketball. A path that sounds luxurious to some. However, do not expect many to take it.

While everyone agrees college players should be compensated, and the G-League route does sound appealing, Jalen Green and players who can benefit from this route are the outliers, not the rule.

It would not matter if Green doesn’t even look at a basketball for the next 16 or so months, he would still not only go within the 2021 NBA Lottery but likely the first overall pick.  Green will not be alone, Isaiah Todd is also electing to pass up on March Madness in favor of a G-League showcase.

While these two players are pioneers, and will eventually be regarded as such, they are still the exception. Most notably because sooner rather than later, we expect that high schoolers will once again be able to leap straight to the NBA.

However, even under the current construct of basketball, this move just simply does not make sense for a lot of players.

While Green and Todd will be seen as lottery prizes no matter what they do over this next year–short of quitting the sport all together–That is something the majority of players, even with the fancy five stars next to their name, do not enjoy.

While the college game does not always translate to the NBA hardwood, the biggest hurdle in this process is how do you evaluate players?

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Sure a guy like Scotty Hopson, or Dakari Johnson, or instead career G-Leaguer here, is a grown man, but they are not among the most talented players. Do you value Jalen Green dominating Hopson, Johnson, and the like as much as you would had he bested some of the top prospects in his class throughout the college ranks?

That answer may very well be yes, just as easily as it could be no for some teams.

You simply will not be granted the biggest stage, which has helped players move up from undrafted to a first-round pick in some cases. A legendary March Madness run, catapults your draft stock more than just collecting stats against the OKC Blue.

I admire the NBA and the G-League for trying to figure out a way to steal the show and support their future players. Especially after losing top prospects such as RJ Hampton to the overseas game, and many more in recent years.

I see this road being the one less traveled by prospects. There are way too many variables.

Next. OKC Thunder do not need to tank to cash in on picks. dark

Despite this being a very interesting storyline, this will not be the new normal for prospects.