Here’s What Jalen Suggs Will Bring to the Orlando Magic

by Josh Cohen

Overview

Jalen Suggs, selected fifth overall by the Orlando Magic, is an extremely athletic floor general with near-faultless game management skills and excellent vision. Shown during his one-and-done season at Gonzaga is that he’s unselfish and makes everyone around him better. Expect him to be electric in the open floor, crafty around the basket and tenacious on the defensive end as well.

NBA Comparisons

Suggs has a variety of dimensions to his game, which makes it a little more difficult to link his skills directly to current or former NBA players. For example, he’s an elite game manager like Chris Paul, Jason Kidd and Chauncey Billups, but he also has a ton of zip and explosiveness similar to an Eric Bledsoe or even a Derrick Rose. There are also some Brandon Roy-traits within him when he operates in pick-and-roll (cerebral and methodical). Those are obviously ceiling-level comparisons. On a ground level, he reminds some of George Hill and Cory Joseph, but faster and with a much better vertical.

Strength #1

Basketball wasn’t the only sport he excelled at in high school. At Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, he was a high-level dual-threat quarterback, not a surprise when you watch him on the hardwood. In his one year with Gonzaga, which reached the national final, he played cool, calm and collected. He punished sleepy defenses with his hit-ahead passes, and in the pick-and-roll he was very cerebral, patient and meticulous. He averaged 4.5 assists in 2020-21, ranked third in the West Coast Conference.

Strength #2

One of the most athletic players in this draft, Suggs is blazing fast and a high flyer. Don’t be surprised if he participates, and even wins a slam dunk contest during NBA All-Star festivities. Not only does he jump out of the building, though. He is very acrobatic and does a good job contorting his body to avoid shot blockers, which is why he reminds some of Rose. With Suggs on board, the Magic should thrive in transition, which is arguably when he’s at his best.

Strength #3

At 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, Suggs has good size for a point guard. More important, though, is that he plays a physical brand of basketball. Remember, he played quarterback in high school, so he’s accustomed to getting hit. Not only powerful and fast, he has nifty hands as well, often using in-and-out or hesitation dribbles to evade opponents off the dribble. Expectations are that Suggs will get to the free throw line a lot in the pros, even though he only averaged 3.8 foul shots per game in college.

Strength #4

Suggs is a tenacious, hard-nosed defender. In all facets – lateral quickness, ball pressure, closing out on shooters, fighting through screens, jumping passing lanes – he excels on that end of the floor. Important, too, is that he’s just as good defending twos as he is defending ones.

Weaknesses

Suggs’ jumper – from all ranges – is erratic. He has sound form, but it just came and went at Gonzaga. He shot 33.7 percent from 3-point range on 104 attempts. There are also questions about his scoring arsenal. It’s unknown if he has an isolation game. He played alongside so many other good players in college that he never really had to create for himself or go to work on an island against an inferior opponent. Powerful and explosive, but does he have enough offensive creativity to take over games?

Expected Role

Suggs should be able to play the one or the two with the Magic. He can be a primary floor general or play off the ball and come off screens and dribble handoffs. A big storyline going forward is how he will mesh with Orlando’s three other young guards – Markelle Fultz, Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton. All four excel at getting into the paint, which is key to increasing drive-and-kick opportunities.

Key College Stats

In the WCC in 2020-21, he ranked seventh in points, seventh in rebounds, third in assists and first in steals. He also shot 50.3 percent from the field, the fourth best mark in the conference.

Most Memorable College Moment

In the Final Four against UCLA after the Bruins’ Johnny Juzang tied the game with 3.3 seconds left, Suggs pushed the ball up the floor and banked in a game-winning, buzzer-beating triple from about 30 feet out to send Gonzaga to the title game.

Quote of the Night

“I think it shows at every level I have played at. My ability is to do whatever is needed on that night to win. Whether that’s play defense on the best offensive player and make him a non-factor. Shut him out of the game. To come out and score and make big shots in big moments. To facilitate and make my teammates better. And then again, the leadership never changes. That’s the same every night. My intensity and fire and passion that I come to the court with. I think everybody there is going to rally around it. Really gravitate towards it.” – Suggs

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