An Analysis of Jalen Suggs Through His First Four NBA Games

by Josh Cohen

ORLANDO - Jalen Suggs, the fifth overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, is now four games into his NBA career and already there’s a lot to like about his skills and long-term potential. The key going forward is efficiency, though, as he’s only shooting 28.8 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from 3-point range. However, each game, his percentages have risen, so that’s a promising sign that he’s getting more comfortable in the flow of the offense.

Where he’s not wasted any time making his presence felt is on the defensive end of the floor. In fact, opponents are shooting 31.4 percent from the field and 20.7 percent from beyond the arc when he’s been the closest defender, per Second Spectrum tracking data. Both on the ball and away from it, he has been a menace, making it awfully difficult for opponents to break free.

Noticeable early on is how good he is getting over screens and contesting shots.

Suggs’ greatest strength at Gonzaga was his passing. He has elite court vision and is extremely unselfish. Clear already is that he and Franz Wagner, Orlando’s other prized rookie, have a great connection. Considering Wagner is exceptional at cutting to the basket, Suggs has spotted him a few times dashing inside.

In the pick-and-roll, he’s showing good poise and recognition while playing at an appropriate speed. While it remains to be seen how electric of a scorer he can be in the pick-and-roll, he has a knack for identifying holes in the defense as he operates in the middle of the floor, a little Chris Paul-esque. He makes excellent pocket passes to rollers and his kickout passes to open shooters have been on target. Also sharp are his post entry feeds.

Going back to the scoring aspect of things, Suggs has had some good looks that he just simply missed. He’s come up short on a few of his floaters, a shot he is very confident taking. Most important, though, is that he navigates the floor well while searching for space, a little Damian Lillard-esque. The question here is whether he can develop a soft touch from various ranges. Can he master the high teardrop? That’s Trae Young’s bread-and-butter shot. Can he create enough separation and drill step-backs consistently? That’s what has made Lillard so lethal.

The more aggressive he is going towards the hoop, the more dangerous he will be. Finishing through contact is something the 6-foot-4, 205-pounder should excel at doing in his career.

His long-distance shot looks very clean. He has nice form on the jumper. Again, how reliable can he be from deep? Late in the game against Miami, he sank a triple from about 28 feet out. Him simply taking these shots is a great sign. He’s not afraid to let it rip.

A breakout game seems inevitable in these next several outings. Even though he hasn’t shot the ball well, his overall numbers have been impressive. He has scored in double figures in all four games, flirted with a triple-double in the home game against the Knicks and his 15 points against the Heat matched a team high.

He’s been guarded by several elite defenders so far, including both Jimmy Butler and Kyle Lowry in the Miami game. Battling it out with guys like that is going to help him in the long run.

“That’s going to be something that he’s going to face on a nightly basis,” Magic Head Coach Jamahl Mosley said. “These are great opportunities for him to keep growing and getting better and seeing the game and understanding the game, knowing he’s going to have some of the better defenders on him. As we move forward and we get into more games, he’s going to see these types of defenders, and he’ll be able to figure things out and we just have to keep putting him in positions to be successful.”

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