Even if you don’t really know who Jalen Suggs is, chances are, if you’ve been following sports, even casually, this year you’ve seen his definitive highlight:
That was Suggs’ remarkable near-half-court buzzer-beating triple to send his Gonzaga Bulldogs into the national championship game and keep the hope of an undefeated season alive.
Of course, the Zags ended up running out of gas and got bombed out by Baylor in the national title game, but that shot from Suggs is among the greatest in the history of collegiate basketball and is sure to live forever and ever on highlight reels.
But beyond just that one phenomenal moment, Suggs is also one hell of a prospect.
He was among the leaders on an outstanding Gonzaga team this past season as a freshman, flashing plenty of potential on both sides of the ball as to what he might become at the next level.
Because of some of the confusion regarding what the Houston Rockets might look to do at No. 2 it’s a little unclear where, exactly, Suggs might land exactly, but he’s expected to go within the first 2-4 picks, with many mock drafts expecting him to land with the Toronto Raptors at No. 4.
The 2021 NBA Draft goes on July 29. Before that, however, here’s a little more on Suggs, undeniably one of the top prospects in this year's draft.
Position: Point guard
Height: Six-foot-four | Weight: 205 lbs
2020-21 stats PPG: 14.4 | RPG: 5.3 | APG: 4.5 | FG%: 50.3
He’s got the “It” factor
There’s a lot to be said of Suggs’ physical gifts and overall basketball skills, but if there’s only one reason why you want to draft him, it’s because he does things that don’t necessarily show up on the boxscore that facilitates winning.
That famous shot he hit against UCLA was, of course, a little fluky, but it also speaks to the kind of player he is: Fearless and clutch.
Suggs shouldn't lack confidence at the next level as he proved during his lone season at Gonzaga that when the moment calls for it, he’s willing and able to take the helm and steer his team to victory.
Additionally, Suggs was afforded these opportunities to try to step up for his team, despite being a freshman, because of his natural leadership skills and his innate selflessness. Well-liked by his teammates because of his positive, encouraging nature off the floor and because, while on the floor he sets a good example as a player who was constantly looking for the extra pass and to find ways to get everyone involved.
While in college he looked like an easy player to follow because of the way he appeared to expertly balance making sure some of the Zags’ big dogs, like Corey Kispert Drew Timme, could eat while also managing to find ways to get other secondary players still actively involved and engaged, and to find individual moments for himself.
That’s exceptional point guard play, and is just something Suggs knows how to do without any coaching required.
Physical abilities and measurables are great, but when you have intangibles like Suggs does, not being the longest or most explosive athlete out there doesn’t matter as much.
Probably the most NBA-ready top prospect
Of the top five or six prospects in the draft, Suggs is probably the readiest to step in and instantly start contributing at the NBA level
He not only appears to have the right poise, demeanour and personality to immediately step in and perform at the next level, he has the raw tools to do so as well.
At six-foot-four and over 200 pounds, Suggs is a strong, solidly-built rookie point guard, who can absorb contact and is capable of defending multiple positions just because of his strength alone.
Additionally, he’s agile and understands how to play with pace in the sense that he can change speeds both in the halfcourt and in transition to deceive defenders and get to the cup, where, again, his strength plays a major factor in his ability to finish.
Additionally, he has excellent basketball IQ and court vision and is able to make passes that seem impossible at first because of how quickly he can read defences and react accordingly.
Lastly, he has a good feel for the game, even without the ball in his hands and his ability to read defences plays into him managing to find open room to cut or relocate to a free spot as a good target to kick out to.
This all equates to an NBA prospect who not only has plenty of room to grow, but one who can reasonably be expected to step in immediately and start helping his team win ball games.
If you’re looking for an early Rookie of the Year candidate, Suggs might be your best-looking bet right now.
Has flaws, but they should be correctable
Suggs, of course, has some holes in his game, but with enough hard work – something that’s never been in question with the young man – he should be able to shore it all up.
For one, while he’s proven himself a timely, clutch shooter, Suggs still isn’t a great, consistent marksman. In 104 attempts from outside last season with the Zags, he connected on just 35 of them (33.7 per cent). Additionally, he shot just 75.4 per cent from the free-throw line. His mechanics seem fine at first glance, but there are likely little things he needs to clean up to become a more reliable shooter such as ensure he doesn’t drift to the side when he goes up for his shot.
The ability to drill it from deep is the most important skill in the NBA, particularly for a player who figures to be a playmaking combo guard like Suggs, where he’ll need to show he can shoot it not only as a threat to space the floor, but to also open up his playmaking and drive game as defenders will have to play up more on him.
With work, Suggs can become a better shooter – maybe even a great one – but it doesn’t appear to be there just yet.
Additionally, while Suggs is a very good athlete – he was a two-sport star in high school, becoming the first person in the state of Minnesota to be named Mr. Football (he played quarterback) and Mr. Basketball – he isn’t an otherworldly explosive athlete the way other top prospects like Jalen Green or Jonathan Kuminga are.
He can blow by defenders and is capable of playing above the rim, but he needs a head of steam to do so. Additionally, while on defence, even though he is a solid perimeter defender, against quicker guards capable of stopping on a dime and can rapidly change direction, he can get beat as, again, he doesn’t accelerate with the best of them.
With film work and a better understanding of opponents’ tendencies, Suggs can make up for some of that lateral quickness he lacks, but it’ll be harder to get around not having the most lightning of first steps.
To his credit, though, Suggs appears to be aware of this particular limitation in his game and, instead, overcompensates for it with pure power.
As mentioned before, Suggs is a strong man, and he knows it. This allows him to bully his way to the cup and finish, but there are times where it gets him into trouble as guys can wait for a charge again him, plus, against competition that’s even bigger and stronger than he is in the NBA, putting his head down and trying to force his way to the rack won’t always work, meaning, to get around not having a dynamo-like first step, he may need to add some finesse into his game such as a more reliable floater.
Again, this is something Suggs can work on, but it’s going to take a lot of dedication and hours in the gym, something that shouldn’t be an issue for him.