The one, playing at the one position players must have determination, pristine passing, and leadership among other traits. Headed into the 2021 NBA Draft, finding a true leader at the point guard will be a top priority throughout lottery-caliber teams — Jalen Suggs may just fill the gap.
Coming out of Minnehaha Academy, Suggs ranked as a five-star among all major recruiting outlets, and even played in the 2020 McDonalds All-American game. With those high expectations, Suggs joined the Gonzaga Bulldogs as their highest recruit in program history. He did not disappoint.
Jalen Suggs’ height is delectable for franchises as playing solely point guard, the Gonzaga product clocks in at 6-foot-5. Suggs’ wingspan is par to the course given his height at 6-foot-5, but he still outreaches names in Steph Curry and Kyrie Irving by an inch. Suggs body fills out nicely at 205 lbs., and with his 20th birthday passing early this month — he’ll still have a lot of gas in the tank to put on an extra ten or fifteen pounds of muscle. Overall, Suggs is a prime build for running the point guard given his height, and once you take his skills into the window — that’s one of many reasons scout love what he brings to the table.
+ Gifted Passer
For Jalen Suggs, his various ways of hitting open targets make his passing ability his greatest strong suit, but also make him a premier passer in the class.
As a distributor in transition, Suggs ranks top in the class. Playing for the Bulldogs, Suggs threw on the money full-court outlet passes time and time again while even dicing in bounce-passes as he neared the timeline.
In half-court situations, Green has eyes in the back of his hand. It doesn’t matter if he’s attacking the basket or pulling the ball out to the perimeter, Suggs knows where everyone on the floor is and justly, he’ll throw on target backdoor and cross-court passes in a flash.
+ High Passing IQ/Spatial Awareness
Piggybacking off of Suggs’ elite passing ability, his gauge on where everyone rests on the floor puts his display on a pedestal.
When Suggs puts the pedal to the medal and looks to be going up for a layup, he’ll go up for mid-air passes, even in some cases by wrapping his arm around his defender for the pass. For corner sitters, Jalen Suggs is your best friend. No matter the situation, Suggs keeps tabs on both corners and will take any cracks at a passing lane, and run with it. Going downhill, if a shooter hides behind Suggs as he crosses the timeline, he’ll get to the three, dump the ball back, and use his body to shield.
Suggs averaged 2.9 turnovers to his 4.5 assists this season, though the how most of his turnovers came about should have some asterisks. Suggs had a sliver of turnovers in which his lackluster handle, though the grander portion came as a result of his unselfishness.
Overall, Suggs’ awareness on the floor is at a superb level for 20-years-old, though his giddiness in which he lodges in passes could use some touch-ups.
+ Dual Threat off Screens
As aforementioned, Suggs is very talented at finding the holes in defenses, that skill comes to full fruition off of the pick and roll and pick and pop.
As a roller, Jalen Suggs has a knack at digging into the paint for a layup, and with a 6-foot-5 frame — defenses may splotch in reinforcements. If that is the case — he’ll kick out. If both the big man and guard stick to Suggs he’ll try to lob the ball over to his roller, and at times soar over the baseline to create space for a dish.
In the pick and pop, Suggs’ awareness comes in the same way. If he pulls in both defenders off a drive, he’s going to kick the ball back out top for the offense. On the flip side, if the defender stays up top, he’ll try to force his way inside for kick-outs or a shot attempt.
+ Sneaky Finisher
Jalen Suggs is widely known for his passing ability (and nailing a game-winner in the Final Four), but his approach to scoring at the basket needs recognition.
Suggs has surprisingly good hops for how his smooth demeanor unfolds in the halfcourt. Suggs isn’t known to put players on a poster, but some of his dunks can leave his head close to rim-level. At his best, Suggs can gain momentum in transition to hammer down 360 jams in the open floor. He also utilizes his spatial awareness in the open to cut in for backdoors and alley-oops.
Driving in on layups, Suggs does an excellent job at capitalizing on the situation. Primarily in transition, Suggs will use his downhill speed to freeze defenders with hop-steps and spins. On contested layups, Suggs can make mid-air adjustments and go up-and-under with the ball as if it’s second nature to him.
Even without the homerun swings, Suggs can deal damage in silence. On floaters, Suggs shot 9-of-14 with the Bulldogs taking advantage of bigs who gave up space in the pick and roll.
+ Major Defensive Upside
As a defender, Jalen Suggs was exceptional for the Bulldogs this past season, but there is a lot of potential yet to be tapped into.
Suggs’ greatest defensive skill this past season came in the passing lanes. Suggs’ awareness is a two-way street — offensively, he sees the passing lanes, on defense — he still does. With this, Suggs loved to bait defenders on the wings before jumping out and making a play on the ball. In some scenarios, these passing lane scrambles were a complete wash leading to easy points, but in others, he was the one reaping the rewards.
As an on-ball defender, Suggs had been a major disruptor too. Suggs averaged 1.9 steals this past season, though even past that he held his opponent down. Suggs did a great job playing isolation defense holding his opponents to a 33-percent clip when he defended them.
Suggs has a strong understanding of help defense, sometimes even completely switching on plays. At 6-foot-5, his frame caters to this style of play, making him a true defender against both guard spots, and even small forwards. Defending in the post, Suggs is not somebody you’d want to rave about, however; his vertical leap helps him play above his size to combat larger defenders, and even make a rejection.
During his time with the Bulldogs, Suggs had his up-and-downs defensively just like every other Freshman, but his well-rounded defensive game sticks him out from the crowd.
– Needs Tighter Handle
Jalen Suggs showed glimpses of taking his man off the dribble, but his handle will need to tighten up to be a major player in isolation
When Suggs’ 2.8 turnovers were discussed earlier, a majority of his mishaps came through trying to make a play for teammates, those other turnovers however came off of his loose handle.
Suggs has a great moving crossover to edge around his man one-on-one, but if help defense comes at the turning point — trouble is brewing. Too often Suggs hesitated when extra help came to start a drive, kick-outs were minimal, but most importantly he didn’t have any secondary moves to get out of the heat.
Luckily for Suggs, the expanded NBA floor will help cater towards his driving game, though a tighter handle would help to prevent pressure or pickpockets from getting the best of him.
– Shot Creating
Jalen Suggs showed proficiency scoring off of hand-offs this season, but on the ball, he needs an extra tool or two to become an isolation threat.
Suggs has a solid pull-up game off screens, but as the game goes to one-on-one, he’s more of a slasher.
Jalen has no hallmarked go-to move in his arsenal, leaving himself susceptible to an inside-out game the majority of the time. Suggs is nimble without the ball, but with his articulate playstyle on-ball, his speediness can get lost in the shadows. If Jalen can branch off a fast stepback for himself, he’ll meet his three-level scoring potential. As it is now, Suggs can get tripped up creating on his own.
This mark goes hand and hand with his handle, if he can consistently get open off one sole move, he’s set. If not, he’ll be dominant playing in transition and off screens, but all other on-ball shots will take time to generate.
– Shooting Inconsistencies
When Suggs is feeling it from the floor, he’s hard to put a lid on. Suggs showed glimpses of a pull-up game, catch-and-shoot game, turnaround game, and inside game throughout the regular-season. If he can maintain those traits on a nightly basis in the NBA, he’s riding a future star evaluation. If his shot falters, however; then his game slips a few pegs.
Suggs shot 33.7-percent on 3.5 attempts from three this past season, but the highs and lows were clear. Suggs laid an egg versus the Iowa Hawkeyes this past season going 7-of-10 from downtown, but then he followed that up going a paltry 6-of-29 (20.7%) from distance across his next nine games. This back-and-forth of having standout games that immediately followed two or three blank ones sat as a constant for Suggs this season.
Overall, Suggs’ jumper isn’t the fastest you could ask for, but the mechanics are down pat. He’ll launch a squared three-pointer the second you kick it to him when open, on, or off the ball. Off a pull-up, his jumper is not the easiest to close out on either. The main issue is in space where with no key moves, it can be a struggle canning an isolation three. Even as a catch-and-shoot piece, he’s still no done deal.
As an indicator, Suggs shot a comfy 75.4-percent on free throws this season, so it’s clear his fundamentals are not the issue — it’s more of if he can get open for shots.
Jalen Suggs has the awareness and understanding of the game that hardly comes around on draft night, think a playmaker with shades resembling Chauncey Billups. However; whether or not he can fill out his shot-creating game will determine how he colors the page.
Suggs is a dominant playmaker who blossoms working in the downhill, but even in the halfcourt knows exactly when and where he’ll find his teammates at any given moment. As a slasher, Suggs is a crafty scorer who can take a hit while going downhill, make mid-air adjustments, and even go up for floaters if there’s a cushion. Defensively, Suggs is a perfect oversized guard who can take on the one or two and toy the defense into easy steals off of passing lanes.
As a perimeter threat, Suggs has a number of question marks surrounding his game, but he has the fundamentals down on his jumper. Suggs doesn’t have a go-to move like a stepback to can threes, he has a solid-looking mid-range pull-up, but the sample size is simply not there. As both an on-ball and off-ball scorer, his outside game is inconsistent, though, with time, he could unwrinkle his kinks to give a solid contribution from deep.
Evaluation: Elite Passing Marcus Smart
At his floor, Jalen Suggs sits at an elite passing Marcus Smart. Overall, Suggs’ speed and athletic ability make him a surefire scorer when running in transition or running at an open lane while his crafty side allows for alley-oops, floaters, and mid-air adjustments while going for layups. Playmaking-wise, Suggs will be a darling for years to come, his work passing out of the pick and roll, transition, and hitting trailers are at an extremely high level as when he turns the corner — he’s getting a layup or a made open at the perimeter. As a defender, he’ll be a versatile piece playing at the one and two both from one-on-one, or dealing with screens. His defensive vision will make him one of the top stealers in the league both as picking pockets and in the passing lane. If Suggs never materializes a go-to move to create a three-point shot, I still think he’ll shoot in the low thirties outside — but teams will afford for Suggs to take threes over a penetration shot, both on and off the ball.
If Jalen Suggs can prove to be a multi-faceted scorer when isolating, Suggs is a supersized Jamal Murray with little holes in his game. Suggs even at his worst sets a pretty high bar in terms of a floor, but his ceiling bristles with All-Star level. If Suggs can reach a point in his career where he can create off a stepback and get off open perimeter shots, he’s a premier glue point-guard for any franchise. Suggs with a jumpshot is still a more halfcourt-oriented guard who will need time to create his shot, but he’ll be dangerous none the less. I don’t see him as an easy-bake-oven for a seven-second offense, but running in a halfcourt set, if he can hit a jumper consistently, any high-ball screen will flip a defense upside down as he could make an impact through popping a triple, driving, or kicking outside. Is he ever going to the top option on a championship team? probably not. No matter his shooting concerns, however — he’s a perfect playmaker that’ll complement his teammates.