5 questions for the fourth quarter of the Orlando Magic’s 2023 season

Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic enter the final quarter of the season with a lot to play for and a lot of growth still to make. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports
Paolo Banchero and the Orlando Magic enter the final quarter of the season with a lot to play for and a lot of growth still to make. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic
Jalen Suggs is quickly emerging as a defensive leader, energizing the Orlando Magic to win more. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images) /

5 questions for the Orlando Magic’s fourth quarter

Can Jalen Suggs push to enter the starting lineup?

Jalen Suggs has been one of the nicer stories for the Orlando Magic throughout the third quarter of the season. After dealing with the expectations of being the team’s next star and dealing with injuries that dealt himmajor setbacks, the Magic seemed to define his role more clearly.

Suggs became a chaos creator. He entered games with the purpose of changing the team’s defensive temperature. He would get into opponents defensively, constantly applying pressure and creating deflections, steals and turnovers.

The Magic insisted throughout all of last season that Suggs rated highly on their defensive metrics. That was their way of trying to downplay his shooting struggles.

But those shooting struggles continued into this year. Suggs is shooting 40.9 percent from teh floor and 30.0 percent from beyond the arc.

That is actually quite an improvement for Suggs. He has become a reliable mid-range jumper. And adding that with his defensive prowess has made Suggs look like a more suitable player.

In the third quarter of the season, Suggs averaged  7.4 points per game on shooting splits of 40.5/33.9/72.2. This quarter of the seaosn, Suggs got himself back from injury and started to find his footing.

That stability is critical for a young player. But more importantly, Suggs seemed to finally find some guardrails so that he could be effective rather than trying to do too much.

Still, everyone is interested to see more of him. He is such an effective defensive player — the Magic have a 112.1 defensive rating with Suggs on the floor for the season and a 108.7 defensive rating with him on the floor since Jan. 10.

Suggs deserves credit for hleping lift the defense up during that time. But he has been part of a defensive terror lineup that includes Jonathan Isaac and Franz Wagner.

There is at least some hint that Suggs should or could push to get into the starting lineup — even though Gary Harris has been a fairly effective 3-point shooter and a solid defender with that starting group.

Nobody should be giving up on Suggs any time soon. Even if his role is just to be a chaotic defender who can occasionally hit a shot.

Ultimately, Suggs’ effectiveness will come down to whether he continues to hit shots. His 3-pointer has taken a step forward (even though it still needs to improve further for him to get starter consideration).

Suggs re-established himself thanks to a cleaner bill of health over the last 21 games. No one has more to gain from a strong finish to the season than Suggs. Orlando has kept the faith in him and has found him a role where he can excell. Suggs has had a strong sophomore season, even if it is not the role or anyone thought he would have on draft night.

Next. 3rd Quarter MVP: Franz Wagner makes it all work. dark

But that is a credit to Suggs for embracing the role in front of him and making the most of it. He is genuinely exciting to watch. And now he has something he can build the rest of his career and growth on moving forward.