The Houston Rockets have selected guard Jalen Green from the G-League Ignite team with the No. 2 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The 19-year-old prospect thrived playing against far older players in the G-League last season by averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists on efficient shooting numbers, but now, he'll have a far stiffer test ahead of him: lifting the NBA's worst team back into the postseason.
The Rockets aren't used to the lottery. They competed for championships for almost a decade with James Harden at the helm, but after years of playoff disappointments, Harden decided it was time to move on. He forced a trade to the Brooklyn Nets last season, and the Rockets collapsed as a result. They got four first-round picks and four years of swap rights in the process, but without a major influx of young talent, nothing could stop them from posting the NBA's worst record without him.
There's a chance that Green can't change that right away. At 19, he is still a fairly raw prospect. That should suit the Rockets just fine. They don't control their first-round picks in the 2024, 2025 and 2026 NBA Drafts, so losing over the next few years is their best chance at accumulating young talent in the NBA Draft. Their concern is winning down the line, and Green, with his enormous upside, should help them do just that.
Gary Parrish's grade: A+
Here's what CBS Sports' Gary Parrish had to say about Green as he graded each team's pick in the NBA Draft:
Green makes a valid point in saying he might have been the No. 1 pick if he'd gone to college. He was awesome in the G-League, and you could argue that what he did there was more impressive than starring in college because he was going against grown men. He has the best chance of anyone other than Cunningham to be a star, and he has the talent to be a future scoring champion.
Green is one of the very best athletes in the draft. He's a strong shooter that should be able to grow into a role as a primary ball-handler within his offense. He can score at all three levels, a necessity for offensive stars in the modern NBA, and while his defense needs work, that excellent athleticism should give him a leg up in adjusting to the speed of the NBA.
The Rockets nearly made the Finals led by two star guards in Harden and Chris Paul. Now, they're building around Green and sophomore standout Kevin Porter Jr., who averaged over 16 points per game as a Rocket last season. They aren't nearly as accomplished as the players they are replacing, but their talent in undeniable. The Rockets have built a strong foundation for their rebuild with this pick, and if they have their way, Green will ensure they aren't picking this high in the draft for very much longer.