LAS VEGAS - Jalen Suggs has been ruled out for the remainder of summer league after spraining his left thumb during Thursday’s game against the Boston Celtics. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder played just under 66 minutes over three games and averaged 15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals.
Selected fifth overall by the Orlando Magic in last month’s draft, Suggs had an unsurprisingly impressive start to his NBA career. All the things he excelled at in his one season at Gonzaga, which with Suggs’ leadership made it all the way to the NCAA championship game, were on display in Las Vegas.
Let’s break down what the 20-year-old did well and where he must improve.
Suggs’ top strengths are his passing and game management. Some have compared him to Jason Kidd for that reason. Both in pick-and-roll and in the open floor, he makes excellent reads and decisions while surveying the court.
Using a nice blend of agility, craftiness, and ingenuity, the Saint Paul, Minnesota native routinely got into the paint and made sound choices. The Magic haven’t shot the ball well at summer league, so Suggs didn’t rack up a ton of assists. But many of the good looks Orlando got stemmed from his savviness and prudence.
Spotting open teammates on the perimeter after collapsing the defense on drives is something he’s elite at doing.
Suggs played on a stacked team at Gonzaga. For that reason, it wasn’t critical for him to always have a scorer’s mentality. Based on his approach at summer league, it appears he’s more than capable of taking over games if necessary.
Although he only shot 41.5 percent from the field, Suggs was able to show off some of his offensive creativity. Interesting about him is that he’s very unpredictable. It’s hard for defenders to guess whether he’s going to accelerate all the way to the basket, stop on a dime and attempt a pull-up jumper or create separation using his good footwork, ball handling and shiftiness.
Initiating contact on drives is something else he thrived at. He took nine free throws.
Deflections aren’t officially tallied in summer league, but just based on the eye test, it appeared Suggs had a lot of them. He has incredible instincts and anticipation. Several passes attempted by the Magic’s opponents didn’t reach the intended target because of Suggs’ peskiness and alertness.
What also stood out on the defensive end was Suggs’ timing, both when guarding the ball and when rising to block a shot. He had a huge block on Moses Moody in the win over the Warriors and a steal on Carsen Edwards against the Celtics just before injuring his left hand.
The Magic are unique in that all their young guards are good rebounders. Suggs, Cole Anthony, R.J. Hampton and Markelle Fultz are unafraid to mix it up with the big boys in the paint. In Suggs’ case, he will use his supreme athleticism to fly in for rebounds.
AREAS TO IMPROVE
As mentioned earlier, Suggs only shot 41.5 percent from the floor. Obviously, that’s not a good mark. He has a nice touch on his floater and good mechanics on his jumper, so it would be somewhat surprising if he wasn’t more efficient in his career. But it’s too early to tell whether he’s someone that can go on scoring tears. He made five of his 14 3-point attempts. Once again, his form is good, but does he have it in him to knock down shots from various ranges consistently?
Another thing that’s still a bit ambiguous and maybe misunderstood is Suggs’ blow-by speed. While a spectacular vertical athlete and electrifying in the open floor, he’s not necessarily someone that’s going to zip by every defender in his path. He relies more on shiftiness to elude and outfox opponents. But when he goes full force downhill, he’s tough to contain because of his excellent balance, body control, strength and coordination.