It’s now or never for Jalen Suggs in the Orlando Magic’s 2024 season

Jalen Suggs faces a pressure-packed season where he will have to prove his place for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports
Jalen Suggs faces a pressure-packed season where he will have to prove his place for the Orlando Magic. Mandatory Credit: Rich Storry-USA TODAY Sports /

Jalen Suggs is excited for the upcoming season.

Who wouldn’t be? The Orlando Magic finished strongly to put themselves in a good position to take the leap up to the postseason this year. Everyone is eager to see how this team comes together this coming season.

Suggs especially.

He has had a rough go of it in his first two years. Entering the league with tons of hype, he faced several false starts in the form of injuries that just kept building on each other. Any time it felt like he was getting into a rhythm, something would knock him back.

Consistency was what Suggs was really after more than anything. And perhaps he found it after the All-Star Break when he averaged 10.7 points per game and shot 36.0 percent from beyond the arc.

It was at least promising. Something perhaps to build on.

The Orlando Magic are at a crossroads for their future. And no player may be more at that intersection than Jalen Suggs who has to prove his place during a critical third season.

Suggs has established himself as a strong defender already but his shooting, composure and general offensive impact remain the biggest thing eluding him. The Magic know they will get an energetic and disruptive defender in Suggs.

But he is getting to the point where he needs to do more. Or at the very least, the Magic are going to decide very soon whether Suggs is indeed part of the long-term future of this team.

After two injury-filled years, the Magic and Suggs are reaching an inflection point. Suggs will get his opportunity because he has earned that look and the Magic’s patience maintained that pathway for him to play.

But the 2024 season feels like it is now or never for Suggs to cement his place on the team and in the league. Another difficult season and it is easy to see the Magic moving on. A season where he puts his talent together could see him establishing himself as a potential starter for the team.

That is the wide range of outcomes for Suggs. He could still be just about anything in the NBA.

Without a doubt, his NBA future is on the line and what his future in the league might end up being will be determined by how this season goes.

It simply starts with the fact he is now in the back half of his rookie contract. He has not had the natural progression rookies expect to have.

Again, injuries have been the story. He suffered a hand injury early in his rookie year that caused him to miss significant time. He returned and showed good signs but struggled to find his shot consistently. It was a major concern even with his defensive prowess.

The hits did not stop in his second season.

Offseason ankle surgery kept him from even taking advantage of a healthy offseason after his rookie year to improve. Then he suffered a concussion and sprained his ankle in a preseason game to keep him from getting the full benefits of a preseason.

Suggs never really found his groove until later in the season. He averaged only 9.9 points per game and 2.9 assists per game with shooting splits of 41.9/32.7/72.3. The shooting percentages bumped up and with consistency, they seemed to stabilize — just look back at what he did after the All-Star Break when he played in 19 of 22 games.

But it still left a lot of questions for him.

There is no doubt he makes a real defensive impact on the floor. The Magic had a 111.0 defensive rating with Suggs on the floor. According to data from Basketball Index, Suggs rated a +0.58 in their on-ball perimeter defense rating, placing him in the 80th percentile in the league. He also rates near the top of the league in steals and deflections per 75 possessions.

Orlando at this point uses Suggs more as a disruptor and chaos agent off the bench defensively.

However, if you insert Jalen Suggs into the starting lineup for Gary Harris things get interesting. In 58 minutes together, that group had a +11.3 net rating (113.7/102.4). That is too small a sample to invest fully in Suggs as the starter entering the season. But it shows the team’s potential with his energetic defense.

And that is what the Magic will be weighing and trying to find out this season. Suggs has to start putting everything together because the Magic’s roster is slowly spinning on.

As good as Harris is, the shooting guard spot is the spot of clearest upgrade for the Magic’s starting lineup right now. The team invested in a do-everything guard in Anthony Black and a 3-point shooting wing in Jett Howard through the Draft.

The team wants internal competition at every spot and there will definitely be this competition.

Suggs is clearly still in the mix. He has shown enough for the team to keep investing in. But that time is quickly going to run out. The Magic are going to have to start refining and shaping their roster as they get better.

And Suggs has to find his place within that group.

The pathway is open this season for him to do so. He has shown he is capable of being a starter-level player. He just needs to be more consistent offensively and with his decisionmaking especially — he shot only 59.02 percent at the rim despite his skill at creating space and getting into the lane.

A strong season from Suggs goes a long way to solidifying the Magic’s guard rotation. A poor season and the team may move on to invest in a young guard in Black who has a similar skill set as a driver and defender, even if he does not have the same shooting potential at the moment.

The good news is Suggs has had the offseason to lock himself in and take advantage of this opportunity. He told The Sixth Man Show he has been working out without any restriction this offseason.

That is critical for his growth and to cement the gains he started to show after the All-Star Break when he got that consistent time on the court without injury concerns.

Nobody wants Suggs to change that much. They need him to be a little chaotic.

On defense, he needs to be up into opponents and causing deflections and steals. On offense, he needs to be willing to drive and take tough shots at the rim and draw people to him where he can kick out and then hit open threes when the ball swings his way.

This is the direction Suggs needs to go. And he has to prove the role he can play for the Magic this season.

It has been a lot of bad luck in Suggs’ career so far. He has not been able to get the runway to play at his best because of the health issues he has had to overcome. But he has clearly shown he can do positive things on an NBA court.

Where the Orlando Magic go in the clutch. dark. Next

The question is whether he has that place for the Magic. And that is the biggest thing left to figure out for Suggs and what is on the line for him this season.

It is now or never in his career. And hopefully he gets the opportunity to prove himself in a big way.