Orlando Magic 2021 NBA Draft Preview: Jalen Suggs offers versatility

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Jalen Suggs, Gonzaga Bulldogs
Jalen Suggs has emerged as one of the top prospects in the NBA Draft and Gonzaga is the favorite to win the national championship. Mandatory Credit: Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Orlando Magic have already embarked on their foundational rebuild, beginning with the official hiring of Jamahl Mosley as the franchise’s head coach.

Securing a coaching hire was the first thing the Magic needed to do this offseason. Now the team can focus their efforts on the draft, scheduled for Thursday, July 29th. As fans are well aware, Orlando has two lottery pick selections in the fifth and eighth overall picks.

The first of their two picks is situated on the edge of the top tier of prospects — Cade Cunningham, Evan Mobley, Jalen Green, Jalen Suggs and Jonathan Kuminga being the near-consensus first five projected to be selected. Orlando is guaranteed to have the option to select one of these five if they are so inclined.

In the first edition of the Orlando Magic Daily community mock draft, I was high on Jalen Suggs’ fit with this Magic roster. At that time the Magic had the third-highest odds of landing the first overall pick in the draft lottery, making a Suggs selection more likely as he is projected to be selected between second and fourth overall.

Assuming he will still be available for the Magic with the fifth pick, or that Orlando makes a trade to secure a higher pick, here’s the argument for Orlando selecting Suggs.

Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs offers a team the chance at a strong and versatile leader capable of playing either guard position. For the Orlando Magic it would be a perfect complement and potential star to go with their guards.

Suggs walked on to the Gonzaga campus as the highest-ranked recruit in the program’s history. He was a consensus five-star prospect according to Rivals, 247Sports and ESPN, with the latter ranking him sixth overall in the class of 2020. As a result, expectations were high for his prognosticated single season in Spokane.

Somehow, Suggs outperformed even these lofty expectations — contributing to, and at times leading, the Zags’ 31-1 season and eventual run to the Final Four.

Per Game Table
2020-21 .503 .588 .337 .754 5.3 4.5 1.9 0.3 2.9 14.4
Career .503 .588 .337 .754 5.3 4.5 1.9 0.3 2.9 14.4

Provided by CBB at Sports Reference: View Original Table
Generated 7/14/2021.

Suggs’ offensive prowess was the most impressive aspect of his freshman performance, particularly his ability to score efficiently inside the arc. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, Suggs is not oversized for the combo guard position, but he projects to be able to hold his own physically at the next level.

He showed an ability to finish over bigger defenders and through contact, which largely contributed to his 59-percent efficiency on 2-pointers.

His supreme quickness and ability to create off the dribble were also on display throughout the season. In the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA Tournament, he made an instant highlight in transition using his speed to knife through the Creighton defense:

Suggs’ intangibles are as sure as any prospect his age, the bigger question being whether his pure skill can translate to the next level. A fair percentage of the national media’s pre-draft evaluations are low on his ability to score from outside, though he showed stretches of outside shooting prowess last season.

Suggs shot 33-percent overall on 3.5 3-point attempts per game, slightly below the average efficiency at the collegiate level. His shooting foundation — technique, lower-body base, and release point — are all healthy and don’t give any indication he’ll struggle severely as an outside shooter.

Despite his potential outside shooting deficiency, there are two areas of potential that make Suggs unlike other prospects —both in this draft class and among all players his age.