There is plenty of meaningful change on the way for top NBA prospects in the next decade, but the NBA G-League took a strong first step towards appealing to top high school talent this week. Jalen Green, ESPN’s No. 1 prospect for the 2020 high-school recruiting class announced he would be declining several scholarship offers in order to sign with a newly unveiled G-League team for top high school prospects.
“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.”
Currently, players are not eligible for the NBA Draft until they are a year out of high school or 19, which has led to countless one-and-done college athletes over the past two decades since the rule changed. In recent years, some first-round prospects have elected to forego that one year in college in order to start the clock on their earnings early. Darius Bazely (New Balance scholarship) and Anfernee Simons (post-grad year at IMG Academy) are two recent examples of first-round picks in that mold. Top 2020 NBA Draft prospects such as LaMelo Ball and RJ Hampton played as pros in Australia’s NBL this year before their seasons were suspended.
None of those players have quite the same cache as Green who earned gold medals at the 2019 FIBA Under-19 and 2018 FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cups and the 2017 FIBA Americas Under-16 Championship as a consensus five-star recruit. The bigger story here though is how Green and another top-15 prospect (Isaiah Todd) will be joining the G-League with far different parameters than the rest of the league’s talent
Per multiple reports, Green will earn over $500,000 in salary and close to $1 million total when including endorsement and appearance deals. Todd will get closer to $250,000 on that front, numbers that are competitive with some overseas leagues and far higher than the current max G-League salary ($125k).
The other key for elite young talent like Green and Todd is that an unaffiliated G-League team is currently being created for them that will be based out of Southern California. Instead of long trips around the country to small market areas, their year in the G-League will be specifically tailored to prepping them for the NBA in a number of areas. A few key details of the arrangement that the G-League is touting.
—Play in only 10-12 games during the season (50 is usual length)
—Team based in Southern California
—Veteran G-League players as teammates with a focus on helping the elite talent develop
—G League will pay for scholarship if he wants to go back to school
—Top tier NBA coaching talent and development
That’s a lot of appealing upside for young American talent that doesn’t want to go overseas for a year out of high school to start earning a paycheck right away. There is some risk for slippage in the draft when playing against better talent in the G-League than they would have for a year in college but the league is trying to sell a better development environment than what most top college programs present.
The bigger question now from my standpoint is whether a program like this in the G-League can have real staying power given the expected change in NBA Draft rules in 2022. The league and union are