Just what is the expectation for Jalen Suggs this season? The number five overall pick from the 2021 NBA Draft has yet to play a full season after two years in the NBA. He has played a combined 101 games during those two seasons as injuries have become the main story of his career.
Those injuries have come to define Suggs’ tenure with the team. Every time it felt like Suggs was getting into a rhythm and getting comfortable, an injury would send him back to a restart.
His whole career to this point has felt like it needed this restart. To say the least, Suggs has not delivered fully on the promise from his college career and pre-draft hype. Not that Suggs has not found value as an ace defender.
But his offensive potential still feels untapped. And while he has carved out his role defensively, his shooting is the big difference-maker for him.
With Orlando loading up its guard room in the draft and facing some key decisions with guards on the roster in the near future, Suggs has an opportunity to make his mark. And especially build off a strong finish to the 2023 season.
At the end of the day, Suggs will go as far as his shooting will take him. And while there is still a long way to go, the 2023 season saw some marked improvement.
The biggest thing Jalen Suggs can work on is his inconsistent shooting. With the Orlando Magic’s crowded backcourt, shooting improvements will be big for him to keep a spot on the team.
Both his field goal and three-point shooting went up to 41.9 percent and 32.7 percent respectively in his second season from 36.1 and 21.4 percent.
Although this seems like a good thing for him individually, Suggs’ shooting remained a major hindrance for him. His shooting mark was the worst field goal percentage on the Magic among players that played 20-plus minutes per game. As for his three-point percentage, it was the fourth worst among players that played 20-plus minutes per game.
But if he stays on the current trend of improving each year, it will help Orlando out offensively. The Magic ranked in the bottom half of the NBA in field goal and three-point shooting.
And Suggs took a sizable leap with his shooting after the All-Star Break.
He averaged 1.3 more points per game than he did prior and his three-point shot looked way better at 36.0 percent after the break, albeit on just 75 attempts in 19 games (3.9 attempts per game). That was a positive step forward, but the sample size is still small.
Suggs was able to spread the floor some and shoot more confidently. That was a big step forward for him. It led to more confidence in his ability to get to the line.
His free throw percentage dropped overall last year from 77.3 to 72.3 percent and from 3.4 attempts per game to 2.2 attempts per game. Considering his driving ability and focus, this is another area for him to improve.
But he trended better after the All-Star Break, shooting 79.1 percent on 34-for-43 shooting (just 2.3 attempts per game). That hinted at the general shooting improvement he showed as he put the ankle issues from early in the season behind him.
Suggs has to generally improve in all of these areas and creating more efficient shots and chances at getting to the line. He creates a decent amount of attempts compared to his Magic teammates. But, just like his field goal percentage, his free throw shooting ranks at the bottom of Orlando players that play 20-plus minutes per game.
This is reflective of how the Magic are at the free-throw line as they are a top-10 team in the NBA when it comes to getting to the line and creating opportunities. But they falter when it comes to making those attempts given at a consistent rate. They are just below average among the league in free-throw percentage.
Generally, speaking Orlando will want more production out of a top-five pick when you look at the season overall, but his numbers shooting the ball post-All-Star break are encouraging that he is capable of upping his game to where it needs to be.
But Suggs does ranks in the basement among Magic players in shooting and it hurts his status in the Orlando guard room.
On top of this, injuries have plagued Suggs’ career in Orlando. He missed a lot of his rookie season with ankle and thumb problems. The ankle issues continued for Suggs into his sophomore season and he even suffered a concussion back in March. He has not played more than 60 games yet in a season.
Orlando as a team has a shooting problem from last season and they will need to evaluate it soon if they want to propel themselves back into competitiveness. They will need to evaluate how they can improve it from within their roster.
This starts with the guard room.
It is no secret at this point that it is crowded and the Magic could trade some assets out to create room on the roster and land more future draft picks. Based on Suggs’ shooting, it is fair to say that he is on the chopping block among Orlando executives when it comes to being evaluated.
But each season has shown improvements. If that trend continues, he can make his spot on the Magic’s roster more secure. It starts with him gaining a good and consistent shot. His play during those 19 games in the second half of the season show he is capable of becoming “untouchable” among Orlando’s front office.