G League revamps professional pathways program

Jalen Green (left) is one of the first players to utilize the NBA G-League’s revamped pathways program. The program includes a pay raise for prospects and a new “select team” for elite prospects who join the program, including Green.

The NBA “one and done rule” was implemented in 2005, requiring players to be one year removed from high school and at least 19 years of age before going pro.

To fulfill that gap year and to deter players from going overseas to get paid, the NBA G League implemented the professional pathway program, which gives top-rated prospects the benefits they may not get in college. 

Jalen Green, the top-rated high school recruit in the class of 2020, according to ESPN, recently joined the program. Naturally, the move sets a precedent that comes with many pros and cons.

This program was implemented in 2018 with little interest. Since then, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and G League Comissioner Shareef Abdur-Rahim teamed up to make it more appealing.

Silver and Abdur-Rahimmultiplied the salary by five and added sponsorships, to name a few modifications. As a result, this is the first year that high school players have committed to this program.

Green will receive a one-year deal worth $500,000, which is ten times what most of the people in the G League will earn, according to ESPN. He will also have the opportunity to profit from his likeness, receive a full ride college (academically) and have access to one-on-one coaching.

“I think it would be better for my long-term goal, better for my development and professional success,” Green told ESPN. “The NBA G League will give me the best opportunity for development as an NBA player.”

Isaiah Todd, a top 15 recruit according to ESPN, shortly followed Green by withdrawing his intent to play at Michigan to instead play for the G League select team. Daishen Nix, a point guard in the class of 2020 also decommited from UCLA to join the team. Todd and Green will be on a team with other prospects that will face a variety of basketball environments, including international teams, practice squads and other G League teams.

The revamped program will also feature the standard 48-minute game length with four quarters. This is longer than the NCAA rules of two 20-minute halves.

As great of an opportunity as this is for young stars, there are several downsides to the new development.

Players like Green and Todd won’t be on the nationally broadcasted games that college basketball programs thrive on during the college basketball season. They will also be playing in front of a much smaller crowd, as G League games average only a couple hundred fans Eric Mussleman, the head coach at Arkansas and a former G League coach, echoed this sentiment.

“We have up to 25 media members after a game at Arkansas, as opposed to the G-League, where there might not be anyone.” he told “Sports Illustrated”. “I think media wise, preparing yourself to deal with the larger contingency of media, college basketball can help you.”

While it is not anticipated by sports analysts that a trend will form, it does bring into question if the NBA will revert back to drafting players after high school so that this program wouldn’t be necessary.

Silver has shown optimism that the draft age will be return to 18 by the 2022 NBA draft, but at the moment, the G League program has shown to be a viable option for elite prospects.