Jalen Suggs’ case for NBA First Team All-Defense and the mindset that got him there

Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Seven
Orlando Magic v Cleveland Cavaliers - Game Seven / Jason Miller/GettyImages

Each year 124 reporters and broadcasters are tasked with voting for the NBA All-Defensive teams. 

This year, Jalen Suggs is in the running for the recognition and has proven that he deserves the honor of being named to the NBA First Team All-Defense.

More convincing than Jalen Suggs’ impressive statistical output is the process and the mindset that led him to the precipice of what might be multiple NBA All-Defensive awards.

After showing himself to be an extremely capable defender in his rookie and sophomore years (Suggs finished in the top 10% amongst guards in STL%, BLK%, and ORB last year),  he has taken his game to the next level this season.

In the 2023-24 NBA season, Jalen Suggs was 11th in the league in defensive loose balls recovered and 10th in the league in steals. Among guards he was 12th in deflections ahead of respected defenders Jrue Holiday and Scottie Barnes.

He is a relentless on-ball defender who constantly fights through screens no one thinks he can and appears in passing lanes no one saw him near.

Amongst guards who played at least 45 games this year, he had the 4th best defensive rating and the 3rd best adjusted defensive plus-minus, which seeks to isolate a player’s impact by controlling for the other players on the court.

When asked about his starting guard’s defensive play following a victory, Coach Mosley answered directly, “First team All-Defense. That’s what that looked like… He’s so disruptive, it’s what he’s capable of doing on a consistent basis.” 

”He’s the head of the snake. You know, he’s the first one, he’s the first line of defense. He’s picking up full court, getting into the basketball… but he starts it all off, his energy, his enthusiasm. It just carries over from him down to the next guy,” Mosley added.

Mosley describes Suggs as a defensive leader whose pride on that side of the ball percolates through the team. That contagious mindset was effective enough to propel the Orlando Magic to the 3rd best defensive rating in the NBA.

The fact that the Orlando Magic defense is so well respected and highly ranked, normally indicates someone from the team has a good chance of being named to an All-Defensive team. All of last year’s NBA First Team All-Defense selections came from teams with top 5 defensive ratings.

His teammates are also quick to heap praise on Suggs’ integral role on the team:

Wendell Carter Jr. describes Suggs as “... just one of those guys you want on your team… Mr. Get It Done is what I like to call him… that’s my brother, I love him to death.

And get it done he has. 

Suggs’ defense often pays dividends on the offensive side of the floor. He’s certainly earned Wendell’s moniker of “Mr. Get It Done.”

Where does Suggs’ commitment on defense come from?

The intention to become a First Team All-Defensive talent started with a shift in mindset that Suggs achieved through discussions with coaches, teammates, and himself, realizing that he wanted to put “...my ego to the side and look at it from a perspective of what does this team need… and for me it was energy on defense, you know, and being steady. I really just tried to lock in and focus on those things”, as he revealed on the Ryan Russillo Podcast.

Suggs seems to be nourished by the energy he provides his teammates and the crowd by bringing intensity on the defensive side of the ball. It’s a closed circuit of electric energy transfer that has molded the Orlando Magic into a feared defensive side.

As deserving praise is heaped on the leadership of Coach Mosley and the defensive prowess of the team as a whole, voters should remember the force that is its vanguard, Jalen Suggs, and award him with his inaugural NBA First Team All-Defensive honor.

If not, Magic fans might cause as much havoc as Jalen Suggs does on opposing guards.