2022 Orlando Magic Player Evaluations: Jalen Suggs has something to build on

Jalen Suggs retuned from his injury and gave the Orlando Magic a brief glimpse of their future backcourt. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs retuned from his injury and gave the Orlando Magic a brief glimpse of their future backcourt. Mandatory Credit: Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports /

The 2022 season was full of ups and downs for Jalen Suggs.

He entered the season with high hopes after falling to the Orlando Magic with the fifth pick in the draft after the Toronto Raptors selected Scottie Barnes fourth overall. Fans in the Amway Center celebrated this seemingly surefire top-four pick landing in their laps.

It felt like fate had finally broken the Magic’s way, giving the team a potential star in a star-studded draft.

Nothing is ever so simple, however.

Suggs did not have the rookie year Magic fans expected. Battling through injuries and roster inconsistencies, Suggs faced many challenges while learning how to survive in the NBA.

But, despite all of that, Suggs still had shining moments that give the Magic hope for the future.

Jalen Suggs faced a difficult rookie year where he struggled to live up to the preseason hype. But the Orlando Magic guard still began to carve a role as a jumping point for his career.

Suggs faced struggles and injuries but still displayed the potential throughout the year that he can be special in this league. Suggs did not have the greatest start to the season, but he did show he is capable of improving as the year goes on.

Overall, Suggs struggled to score the ball consistently throughout the year and that was the overarching theme of his season.

Suggs averaged 11.8 points per game on poor efficiency. He shot 36.1-percent from the field and 21.4-percent from three. Suggs did not have a month of shooting at least 26-percent from beyond the arc.

All of his shooting numbers ranked in the bottom quarter of the league. It does not paint a pretty picture.

He shot just 23.1-percent on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers and 20.8-percent on corner threes. His shot quality was also of some concern too. Only 16.3-percent of his 3-point attempts were open according to Basketball-Index, giving him an openness rating -0.32.

Suggs tried to play the role of the star in a lot of ways. He took too many shots off the dribble and pull-up shots. He also isolated a lot — 1.8 total isolations per 75 possessions — and struggled to score in them — 36.8-percent effective field goal percentage in isolation plays, according to Basketball Index.

Suggs’ driving ability is his biggest offensive skill, although his finishing there also left a lot to be desired. He was one of the worst finishers at the rim among high-volume drivers in the league.

He can create at the rim — Basketball Index gives him a rim shot creation rating of +1.3, in the 93rd percentile in the league. But he had a rim shot-making rating of -1.7 (in the third percentile in the league!) with a 59.36-percent adjusted field goal percentage at the rim.

While Suggs struggled to score consistently there were performances in which Suggs played well.

Suggs scored 21 points in a 115-113 loss to the Brooklyn Nets which included Suggs shooting 4 for 9 from three. He had 21 points in an early-season game against the Toronto Raptors that included a big 10-point scoring burst in the fourth quarter to give Orlando a chance to steal the game — all while fans chanted “Scottie’s better.”

His season-high came against the Los Angeles Lakers in January when he scored 22 points. He got to the line for 10 free throw attempts and had several dazzling passes in the process.

Suggs has shown the flashes but does need to find a way to put it together.

About the only thing he did consistently well offensively was his ability to draw fouls. He shot 3.4 free throw attempts per game.

Suggs still grew as a player in other aspects of the game offensively.

As the season went on Suggs improved as a playmaker and in limiting turnovers. During the month of October, Suggs averaged 4.0 assists but averaged 3.3 turnovers per game. He improved in that department throughout the year by the end of the season excluding April due to the lack of sample size (two games), Suggs averaged 4.8 assists to 2.8 turnovers per game. In this instance, during February, he averaged 5.5 assists with only 2.5 turnovers per game.

Suggs has plenty of potential as a passer.

He averaged 14.3 assist points per 75 possessions, placing him in the 88th percentile in the league. But despite this, Suggs is not considered a good passer for how heavy of a driver he is — rating as -0.82 role adjusted assistant points per 75 possessions, placing him in the 50th percentile in the league.

Still, this is where Suggs has his most value with how much he struggled to finish on his drives. He had 19.4 potential assists per 100 possessions, ranking in the 82nd percentile. Suggs has one of the best playmaking talent scores in the entire league.

That is something to build on. So too was his defense.

While Suggs struggled offensively, he was outstanding on the defensive end as the year progressed.

The Magic had a 107.8 defensive rating with Suggs on the floor, the best mark for any rotation player. His defensive numbers back up this rating.

He had an on-ball perimeter defensive rating of +0.30 according to Basketball-Index, ranking him in the 65th percentile, a strong mark for a rookie. He had 1.6 steals per 75 possessions, ranking in the 94th percentile, and 3.3 deflections per 75 possessions, ranking in the 88th percentile. He had a passing lane defense rating of +4.4, measuring his ability to get deflections and bad pass steals.

There are still areas Suggs needs to improve defensively. He has to become better at defending pick and rolls — he had an average rating as a ball-handler screen defender according to Basketball-Index but ball handlers in pick and rolls scored 0.76 points per possession against Suggs’ defense.

This too is something to build on. And for a rookie year, that is a start for him.

Player Grade: C+

The numbers will state Jalen Suggs was up and down throughout the season. But as the team faced injuries throughout the season combined with inconsistent lineups, the eye test tells a better story of how Suggs played defensively.

Throughout the season Suggs got better and picked his spots of when to attack the ball and when to stay disciplined. Suggs averaged 1.2 steals on the season and was arguably the team’s best defender. There were many instances of Suggs disrupting plays and displaying the ability to pick up opposing guards full court.

Before assessing an overall grade for Suggs, it is important to note Suggs faced injuries throughout the season. He missed 20 games starting in late November after fracturing a bone in his shooting hand. He came back from that to play with some inspiration.

But he ended the season on the injured list again after spraining his ankle. After the season, he underwent surgery for a stress fracture in his ankle which leads many to believe he finished the season playing through the injury.

Suggs may not have had the greatest rookie campaign offensively, but he displayed great defensive talent. He also improved as a playmaker as the season progressed and displayed the intangibles of toughness and competitiveness that any great player needs.

There are high hopes for next season for Suggs.

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Suggs needs to improve his efficiency on offensive end of the floor. That would unlock the possibility of Suggs being a very dangerous two way player at the minimum for Orlando. With the drive and fire that Suggs brings day in and day out there is no doubt Suggs will be ready to take the next step in his game entering the 2023 NBA season.