Jalen Suggs and Orlando Magic will need to slow things down again

Jalen Suggs' ankle issues to end the season ended up being more serious as he underwent surgery the Orlando Magic announced. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs' ankle issues to end the season ended up being more serious as he underwent surgery the Orlando Magic announced. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports /

The biggest issue everyone saw with Jalen Suggs from the moment he stepped on the court in the NBA’s regular season was his speed.

Suggs was going headfirst into everything, going a million miles per second and trying to do everything all at once. His scoring and shooting numbers certainly disappointed. And his willingness to take a hit and consistency in getting back up were both endearing and concerning.

Suggs, it seemed, was always coming up holding something or a bit slowly. The football player in him loved the physicality and it was a key part of his strong defensive season for the team. Especially as a rookie.

Jalen Suggs’ offseason development took a bit of a hit as he underwent surgery last week to repair a stress fracture in his ankle.

Everyone probably should have guessed these would be problems for a young guard, playing a major role for a young team without the support or relief that comes from more established players. Suggs had a lot to handle and a lot to learn all at once.

The Magic needed to slow him down any way they could. Whether that was through experience and repetition — seeing the same situations over and over again before he got comfortable — or by sitting him down and having him watch. A fractured thumb gave him the chance to watch from the sielines and he had a nice burst of understanding.

This offseason was going to be his best chance to slow things down even more. He would not have the chaos of game action to try to learn and see things on the fly. He would be able to work at his pace to understand better these situations and see them before they sped up again in Summer League and in the regular season.

That process itself now is going to be a bit slower. And just what the Magic can get from this summer from Suggs is up in the air.

The Magic announced Monday that Suggs underwent surgery on his right ankle last week to repair what the team is calling a slight stress fracture. He is expected to make a full recovery and resume basketball activities this summer and be ready for training camp in the fall.

Suggs missed 11 of the team’s final 13 games with a sprained ankle. It certainly seemed like it was an odd choice to bring him back for the two games he did play. He ended up leaving that final game — against the Charlotte Hornets in the penultimate game of the season — after appearing to reaggravate that ankle injury.

It is impossible to say when the stress fracture occurred or whether the Magic should have known he had one — characterizing it as a small tear would suggest it was particularly hard to find and only revealed after continued discomfort.

But this is where Suggs stands to start his offseason. He is back on the bench having to wait for the clearance to get back on the court. That will keep him from the work he needs to get better and add to his game to make good on what was a disappointing rookie season statistically.

Suggs averaged 11.8 points per game and 4.4 assists per game, but he shot just 36.1-percent from the floor and 21.4-percent from beyond the arc. While there was a solid initial push after he returned from his thumb injury, Suggs averaged 12.7 points per game and 5.3 assists per game on 39.3-percent shooting in the 22 games between his thumb injury and his ankle injury.

That at least shows some improvement statistically. But it was also clear how much Suggs needed to slow things down and play with more poise and control.

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Beyond his penchant for taking hits and going all-out defensively, where he was absolutely stellar for a rookie, Suggs made 54.7-percent within five on 4.5 field goal attempts per game (the 10th worst mark in the entire league). He also made only 38.4-percent of his shots on 9.0 drives per game according to data from Second Spectrum.

This is where Suggs likely needs to put in most of his work. Just learning how to play with more control around the rim and reading pick and roll situations a whole lot more. Drilling down his reads and getting comfortable knowing how fast the league plays are going to be keys for him to be successful — in addition to improving as a 3-point shooter.

This only comes with that constant grind in the offseason with some reinforcement and confirmation in Summer League.

Now, it is not clear when Suggs will be able to take advantage of that opportunity. It now seems like Suggs will have to play catch up to get back to work, going through the rehab process no matter how short or long that process might end up being.

There is a lot of work to do before that. And a lot of work that needs to happen on the court first and foremost for him to get where he ultimately needs to get.

Stopping certainly will give him the chance to get his body right. Hopefully part of that rehab process will be working on his strength and some of his conditioning once he can get running again. That is certainly part of the puzzle too.

This time off the court will again give him the chance to watch and learn through the tape, visualizing what he will need to do once he can get back on the court.

But it will keep him from getting the on-court reps he needs to cement that understanding and learning. This is the most important step he has to take.

The one that gets put on hold for the time being.

Orlando has been asking Suggs to slow things down. Now even that process is getting slowed down again.

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Waiting on injuries is nothing new though. It is random and Suggs cannot make progress if he is not healthy. And so everything will take a bit more patience.