How would Ben McLemore's career be different if he went straight to the G League, working with professional development coaches and an NBA-level training staff instead of spending a year at Kansas?
What about Nik Stauskas or Malachi Richardson? How about Harry Giles, who redshirted his first NBA season while trying to get stronger?
The Kings have seen firsthand the effects of drafting unproven college players and hoping for the best. More often than not, it hasn’t worked out during Sacramento's 13-season playoff drought.
The G League took the next step in becoming a true minor league for the NBA on Thursday. Jalen Green, the 2021 draft's top prep prospect, is making the stunning move straight from high school in Napa to the G League.
“We’re thrilled to welcome a player and a person of Jalen’s caliber to the NBA G League,” G League president (and former Kings executive) Shareef Abdur-Rahim said in an official press release. “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 receive upwards of $500,000 in salary with an earnings package that could surpass $1 million, according to multiple reports. Because he is moving straight to the professional ranks, he is giving up his NCAA amateur status and will be able to sign with an agent, ink a shoe deal and search out other endorsement opportunities.
Reporting w/ @Draftexpress: Jalen Green is making the leap to a reshaped NBA professional pathway program, a G-League initiative that’ll pay elite prospects $500K-plus and provide a one-year development program outside of minor-league’s traditional team structure. Story soon.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@wojespn) April 16, 2020
Green is the first player to take the leap, but he likely won’t be the last we see take this step in the coming weeks.
When high-end prospects LaMelo Ball and R.J. Barrett chose to play in Australia last season, the G League began developing a program to keep top athletes in the United States and provide a system for players to develop under professional guidance and learn life skills they’ll need as NBA players.
Green will join a new team comprised of veterans willing to mentor and professional coaches, according to the press release. The squad won't be affiliated with any existing NBA G League franchise or NBA team.
This should be a huge boon for the G League moving forward. With the prospect of seeing some of the future stars of the NBA, it should help attendance. It will likely also lead to better competition as players who normally sign contracts abroad might stick around due to the increased exposure to NBA and G League scouts.
It’s too early to tell how it will impact the Kings, but there is potential for all kinds of benefits. First and foremost, the top tier of incoming players might join the league better prepared for life in the NBA.
They’ll have an opportunity to build their minds and their bodies for the next level, and the league will hopefully provide mentorship on dealing with finances, media and all that comes with being a professional athlete.
The NCAA will continue to have value as a proving ground for players who either mature later or become role players. But if the cream of the crop finds success by going through the G League, it will be much closer to a true minor league.
Success isn't guaranteed, but the NBA has nothing to lose by dipping its toe into waters NCAA has controlled for nearly two decades since the league moved their age requirements following the 2003 draft.