Coming in as the consensus No. 1 overall prospect in the class of 2020, Cade Cunningham backed up the hype with a dominant freshman campaign that saw him average 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds and 3.5 assists per contest, leading Oklahoma State to the NCAA Tournament in the process. Following a year of success and exposure at the collegiate level, Cunningham is seen as the runaway favorite to hear his name called first in this summer’s NBA Draft. In fact, it would be a major upset if the former five-star prospect isn’t the No. 1 overall pick.
As for the No. 2 overall prospect in the class of 2020, Jalen Green, he chose a different path. Instead of choosing between the likes of Auburn, Florida State, Memphis or Oregon, the 6-foot-5 guard opted to sign with the G League for his one-and-done season leading up to the 2021 NBA Draft. There, he made over $500,000, worked with high-profile, NBA-caliber trainers, and played on national television when the G League played in its Orlando bubble earlier this year. More importantly, he proved he was an elite player against solid competition consisting of former NBA veterans and players still fighting for a shot in the league, averaging 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 2.8 assists per contest.
In ESPN’s latest update of best available prospects going into the draft, Green came in at No. 4 overall, sitting behind the likes of Cunningham (OK State), Evan Mobley (USC) and Jalen Suggs (Gonzaga). In The Athletic’s latest update? No. 4 overall, behind those same three college standouts. NBC Sports? No. 4. Sports Illustrated? No. 4. CBS Sports? No. 4.
He’s still expected to be a top-five pick, but Green believes there would have been a legitimate conversation about the No. 1 overall pick had he gone to college this past season.
“I know for a fact if i went to college it woulda been a different talk about who goin number 1,” Green said in a tweet that has since been deleted. “it’s good tho, i loved the Gleague. it prepared me ahead of a college move. i (ain’t) gone stop working.”
Probably a good endorsement for going to College pic.twitter.com/S2tzBfgFQh
— Matt Jones (@KySportsRadio) May 5, 2021
The G League route certainly has its perks, specifically for those adamantly against the college route. If you don’t want to go to class and do nothing but get paid to play basketball, sign with the G League (or LSU).
For those looking to build a basketball brand, play on basketball’s biggest stage in the NCAA Tournament, potentially play for a Hall of Fame coach or historic program, and move up the draft boards – look at Jalen Suggs at Gonzaga, for instance – it’s hard to deny that college basketball is the answer.
Even Green, the G League’s biggest star this past season, admitted that he would have been in the conversation for the No. 1 overall draft pick had he gone to school.