Former five-star high school prospects Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs are both among the top candidates to be the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.
One has a chance to play for an NCAA basketball title next month. The other might as well have been playing hoops on Mars — until recently.
Instead of building up his draft stock with national exposure during the first few months of the college hoops season, Green got paid $500,000 to play in the NBA G League as the top recruit in the 2020 class.
Passing up six figures with the new preps-to-pros route wasn't the wrong choice for Suggs, who could lead Gonzaga to a Final Four and still likely be a top-five draft pick and millionaire soon enough.
"I think both of them are going to be lottery picks," NBA TV analyst and former Timberwolves coach Sam Mitchell said. "It really doesn't matter that Jalen Green decided to go to the G League and Jalen Suggs decided to go to Gonzaga."
Is there really a true right or wrong side in the NBA G League vs. college hoops debate? Probably not. Each player made decisions that were best for them. Competing with college basketball for attention is no contest, though. That's clear.
Green plays for a select developmental team in the G League called Ignite. He and some teammates basically dropped off the map until the NBA's minor leagues opened play last week in the Orlando bubble.
The display of talent from Green, Jonathan Kuminga, Isaiah Todd, and Daishen Nix is intriguing. But you can bet they're still a bit jealous watching Suggs, Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham and Southern Cal's Evan Mobley and other stars featured in big-time college games every week.
Was skipping college worth it? The answer probably won't be clear until draft night.
Mitchell, who coached former prep standouts like Green and Zion Williamson at the AAU grassroots level, said college isn't for everyone. But five-star recruits shouldn't go to the G League for the money.
"It's all about which [level] can give you more confidence and what you can handle," Mitchell said. "If you know you're going to be a top pick, the money is coming. The money you get in the G League is not going to change your life. I really think it's something you sit down with family and ask if it's something for you. Because it's different. You are truly a professional and will be treated that way."
Who's to say Green's star wouldn't be shining brighter right now at Auburn or Memphis? Kuminga maybe could've been the next Zion-type sensation at Duke. Imagine how seemingly unfair it would be if the 6-11 Todd, a Michigan recruit, were playing for the Wolverines, already a Big Ten title favorite.
Instead, Green and company test themselves each game against grown men in preparation for the NBA Draft, pretty much in relatively obscurity.
Meanwhile, Suggs, Mobley, Cunningham, and other college hoops stars chose to be in college. Some observers of the game say they're already being treated like pros, but they're not getting paid — yet.
But their image and brand has been hyped up since November — and even more attention awaits if their teams make NCAA tournament runs during March Madness.
College hoops is better off this year, especially during this pandemic season, because of the One-and-Dones that went to college. But don't forget about Iowa's Luka Garza, Illinois' Ayo Dosunmu and Kofi Cockburn, Indiana's Trayce Jackson-Davis and the Gophers' Marcus Carr who returned to school. They could've been in the NBA G League right now, too.
Instead, they're all playing like All-Americans and only building up their skills and legacies. G Leaguers aren't wrong with their decision to skip college, but it is still fine to put your NBA dreams on hold.