3 would-be X-factors for the Orlando Magic’s future playoff runs

Jalen Suggs' late-game heroics throughout his career make him a big X-factor for the Orlando Magic's future playoff pushes. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs' late-game heroics throughout his career make him a big X-factor for the Orlando Magic's future playoff pushes. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports /
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Jalen Suggs, Orlando Magic, Golden State Warriors, Kevon Looney
Jalen Suggs turned in a career game, making all the plays the Orlando Magic needed down the stretch to pick up a win over the Golden State Warriors. Mandatory Credit: Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports /

3 would-be X-factors for the Orlando Magic’s postseason

Jalen Suggs

Jalen Suggs‘ first two years in the NBA have not exactly gone to plan.

Injuries slowed him down in each of his first two seasons and kept him from gaining a consistent rhythm. That and the expectations heaped upon him on a team that was desperate for a player — particularly a guard or wing player — with star potential.

Suggs did not live up to those expectations although he never really got a chance with a late-November hand injury and then an ankle injury to end his season. That and the long leash he had to make mistakes and just take whatever shots he wanted did not help him. His rookie-year stats were certainly disappointing.

His sophomore season did not get off to any better of a start.

He sprained his ankle early in the season, kept coming back because he was too tough to sit out (an endearing if sometimes destructive feature from Suggs) and then sat out until everything was straightened out.

In the end, Suggs had a solid but not spectacular sophomore season.

He continued to establish himself as one of the best young defenders in the league, willing to mix it up and be physical with just about anybody in front of him. And he slowly started to find his shot — averaging 9.0 points per game and shooting 41.9 percent from the floor, 34.3 percent from beyond the arc and 75.0 percent from the foul line in 39 largely uninterrupted games to end the season.

Those are not numbers to write home about. But there is optimism that with an offseason to improve and work — something he did not have after his rookie year because of the offseason surgery — that Suggs can take a sizable leap.

The one thing Magic fans should know though is that Suggs is someone who could very well thrive under postseason pressure. That is perhaps the one thing that is already clearly established about Suggs. And even if he stays exactly as he is now as a sparkplug off the bench, he is the kind of player who becomes a pest and a specialist in a postseason situation.

First, Suggs has already proven throughout his short career his willingness to step up to the big moment.

His play in the NCAA Tournament — including the famous half-court shot against UCLA in the Final Four — was one of the big attractions of drafting him. He has a penchant for stepping up to the moment.

That has carried through to the NBA. In the Orlando Magic’s home win over the Golden State Warriors in November, he buried two huge threes late and then ripped Stephen Curry for steals on two occasions to help the Magic seal the win. Those were big-time plays.

Then in the biggest play of his season, he hit the game-winning shot against the Chicago Bulls on the road.

Suggs is not afraid of the moment. And his defense is certainly a big factor too.

Suggs is a disruptive defender, ranking better than the 90th percentile according to Basketball-Index in steals per 75 possessions and deflections per 75 possessions. He navigates screens effectively and chases players down well. Even his interior defense rates well for a guard.

This is the kind of player that changes a playoff series. The kind of guy who the team deploys on the best player on the other team to annoy him and get him off rhythm. And a player who can just flip a game on its head.

The Magic are not giving up on Suggs even after two difficult seasons. He has shown enough to keep investing in him. He could very well return from his offseason a very different and more impactful player.

But as things stand now, Suggs is a huge playoff weapon.