With the preseason officially over and the regular season beginning Wednesday against the San Antonio Spurs, there are many things to look forward to as an Orlando Magic fan this year.
New coach Jamahl Mosley will bring a new style to the team. The young roster is continuing to develop. And the return of Jonathan Isaac and Markelle Fultz will be exciting.
This will not be a season judged on wins and losses with all the newness and development that will come from this extremely young roster. But there is a lot to look forward to.
Perhaps at the very top of the list is being able to watch the newly drafted rookies, Jalen Suggs and Franz Wagner, begin their NBA careers. There are big expectations for both players as they take the floor for the first time.
Orlando Magic fans were over the moon when the team selected Jalen Suggs. He is among the favorites to win Rookie of the Year.
Because of how loaded the 2021 NBA Draft class seems to be, it only makes sense the upcoming Rookie of the Year race will be fascinating.
Right now, the frontrunners are Cade Cunningham (+275), who was drafted first overall, and Jalen Green (+243), who was taken second. After these two guards, there is a drop-off in the odds, with Jalen Suggs (+700), Evan Mobley (+1,075) and Scottie Barnes (+1,150) rounding out the top five.
It is awesome the Magic have someone in Suggs the oddsmakers deem has a significant chance of winning the award. Arguing that any of these odds are good value is hard to do. At the end of the day, only one player is going to win the award, so only one player is technically good value.
But Jalen Suggs being in the preseason conversation for Rookie of the Year is an indicator the Magic have a meaningful talent on deck.
It has been a few years since the Magic have had a prospect like Jalen Suggs. His intangibles are unique, his defense is tenacious and his game is well-rounded. He has the potential to not only win Rookie of the Year but to be a pillar to the Magic’s rebuilding process.
Suggs entered the league after a stellar year at Gonzaga with 14.4 points per game, 5.3 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. That included some big moments during the NCAA Tournament and some high-pressure games.
Suggs has not put up those stats in Summer League or preseason. But he has still displayed plenty of highlight-reel-worthy plays to build from.
Suggs is going to be front and center throughout the year for the Magic on a local and national basis.
Although there will probably be some unexpected competition for this award, as of now, the front-runners in Cunningham and Green have something in common with each other. They will both be given the car keys to their team’s offense on opening night. They should also get the bulk of the play-making responsibility throughout the entire season.
This may be Suggs’ biggest question mark when it comes to his Rookie of the Year candidacy.
The Orlando Magic’s backcourt has more uncertainty than the Detroit Pistons or Houston Rockets. Suggs will not be handed the freedom as Cunningham or Green will. The Magic will most likely share the play-making load.
Markelle Fultz, R.J. Hampton and Cole Anthony could all take away minutes from Jalen Suggs, and take some of the ball-handling responsibilities. At this point, Suggs may start off on the ball but the team can certainly move him around within the lineup.
There is a chance Suggs is not even the starter for the team’s season opener — although it seems likely he will lineup as the starting point guard Wednesday. Still, no one knows for sure how Mosley is going to handle playing time for this young team.
Last year, LaMelo Ball won the Rookie of the Year award with Anthony Edwards coming in second and Tyrese Haliburton third. Player comparisons are not always the most accurate representation, but Suggs and Haliburton have similarities worth mentioning.
Both are versatile combo guards who have a knack for making smart plays.
During his rookie season with the Kings, Haliburton averaged 13.0 points, 3.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists along with 1.3 steals and 0.5 blocks per game. If Suggs is able to play similar to how Haliburton did, and perhaps beat his statistics, he may be able to get the voters’ attention.
In their rookie seasons, both Edwards and Ball were given an incredible amount of freedom. They made plenty of mistakes as they learned the NBA game and racked up stats. Cunningham and Green should have a similar type of rookie campaign.
While Cunningham and Green go for points, Suggs could zag and play to his strengths, which are his versatility and defense. If both Cunningham and Green average 20 points per game, but do so inefficiently, it could lead to a portion of the voting panel deciding Suggs is worth looking at, just like Haliburton was.
The Magic’s over/under win total is now the lowest in the league at 22.5 wins. Suggs could continue to improve his chance of winning the award if the team exceeds expectations. Since the voting panel is not filled with robots, rather media personnel, this could help build a storyline the panel finds enticing.
It would not hurt to sprinkle in memorable highlights, which should not be a problem for Suggs.
At Gonzaga, he made one of the most thrilling shots in Final Four history. And during the preseason, he made an incredible block late in the game against the Golden State Warriors. If he keeps up his habit of thrilling moments during his rookie season, he should have no problem making sure he is on the panel’s mind.