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(G)League-Wide Vibes: Jalen Green is a pioneer

High school phenom Jalen Green’s big move could be the biggest move, since the one-and-done implementation.

SLAM Summer Classic 2018 Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

April 16, 2020 will be remembered in the basketball universe for eternity. It may even be known as the first domino in the fall of NCAA basketball.

Jalen Green — who was a consensus top-3 recruit in the class of 2020 — became the first player to join the G-League’s newest professional pathway program. Though Memphis Tiger fans are presumably bitter about the decision, it’s the hands-down best decision he could’ve made. His salary is set at $500,000, while also receiving a full scholarship he could put towards a college education — whenever he decides to pursue one. Between his salary and potential endorsements, Green could ultimately exceed a million dollars.

Secure the bag.

When the announcement was first made, his move made Jalen Green a pioneer, as he’s the first top-10 prospect since the one-and-done rule to bypass college for an American professional league. From an outsider’s perspective, it initially seemed like he was just going to enter his name in the G-League draft. That would bring about more questions, specifically related to his readiness for that sort of competition.

However, when The Athletic’s Shams Charania announced that an entire select team was going to be built around Jalen Green, and more details emerged regarding his team, the game officially changed.

They won’t be a normal G-League team. They’ll play exhibition games against G-League teams, as well as overseas teams. There’s more of an emphasis on development as well. It’s still interesting and confusing at first read, but it’s an idea that’ll likely be brilliant when put into action.

There are a lot of questions regarding this, and there will be stuff they will have to tweak. GBB Senior Staff Writer and Hustle Correspondent Brandon Abraham laid a lot of them out in a Twitter thread — all very accurate points made.

The G-League has become more legit over the past few years, and now with the implementation of this team, they’ll need to make decisions regarding its current teams. They can’t afford to lose the quality they’ve accumulated over the years for more lucrative overseas options. I’m assuming a new TV or streaming deal could increase the pay and revenue for the existing teams, to prevent them from losing talent — someone like a Dusty Hannahs or Jarrod Uthoff.

While those are future-ish problems for the G-League, the league is in a great spot, as they’ve changed the game.

And Jalen Green is the perfect player to lead the charge.

He’s gained an amazing following on social media through his booming highlights on Slam, Overtime, and House of Highlights. In a Bleacher Report feature, he was compared to Kobe Bryant. Green has star power, and everyone will follow along closely to see if this experiment passes or fails.

Nonetheless, plenty more stars will fall in line — whether it’s Memphis product Kennedy Chandler, or high school phenom Emoni Bates. In addition, with LaMelo Ball’s purchase of NBL’s Illawarra Hawks, that’s just another appealing option for high school basketball’s biggest stars.

And with all this noise, the NCAA needs to take notice and fix stuff, or Jalen Green won’t be the last big star to ditch college basketball for this G-League route.

How Will This Pertain to Memphis?

Jalen Green’s decision hits nationwide, but it does have a direct impact on Memphis basketball as well.

Obviously, Memphis Tiger basketball got the most damage here, as they only have a JUCO big man in their 2020 recruiting class. I’m not worried, since they’re returning most of their rotation players — aside from James Wiseman and Precious Achiuwa. However, how will this change Penny’s recruiting process? Would they even bother recruiting players more likely to become one of the G-League’s “elite prospects?” I’m not entirely sure.

Even then, I think Memphis basketball — and college basketball — will be fine. The teams with the most experience favor better in the national title race, and most of the current Tiger players project as 3-4 year players. I’m also a huge proponent in the return of legitimate college legends, ones that stay into their upperclassman years — so in my time, guys like JJ Redick and Tyler Hansbrough.

For the Memphis Hustle, the players could eventually see a raise in their salary. More players could also see the G-League in general as an option. In addition, if Jalen Green’s team travels to Southaven, they will have a one-night spike in revenue, mainly in ticket sales and concessions.

For the Memphis Grizzlies, the implementation of this select team, and a potentially expansion here, helps their scouting department immensely. They’ll no longer have to travel across the world to scout these players that bypass college for professional basketball overseas, which will be more of a risk in the midst of this pandemic. The players will be in their own pipeline now; that’s a huge bonus for scouting.

Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay, RJ Hampton, and LaMelo Ball started this wave. Jalen Green’s decision though will be the one that changes the NCAA, G-League, NBA, and basketball as a whole ... forever.

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