Suggs Sophomore Surge
By Fawzan Amer
Draft evaluators gushed over Jalen Sugg's potential to play a 3-D role against NBA-level defenders. The past two seasons, however, he’s been befuddled by a plethora of injuries stunting his growth compared to players drafted alongside him, only appearing in 48 games as a rookie and 53 games in his sophomore season. However, Orlando has seen flashes of self-creation, improved shooting, and his elite disruptive presence, which has identified himself as a certified nuisance to the opposition. Drafting a player as high as five, the hope is that the player can bring some semblance of self-creation. Being able to hunt for his shot is a necessary piece to earning more responsibility on their plate. The problem that Jalen Suggs has been presented with is that he plays in a hierarchy that includes the likes of Markelle Fultz, Franz Wagner, Paolo Banchero, and Wendell Carter Jr. Jalen Suggs touches and opportunities come after those respective players adhere to that of their own.
Being so low on the hierarchy of touches has allowed Jalen Suggs to tap into his defensive potential as he has taken a leap on that end of the floor this season. As the season has progressed, the game has slowed down for him on that end of the floor, and he is starting to recognize actions and routine set plays the opposition runs prior to them occurring. He’s long been a nightmare for opposing teams because he makes himself felt whether he’s involved offensively or not.
Jalen Suggs affects the game in a plethora of ways that don’t translate to box score watchers. A versatile defender who presents the option of switch-ability in man and zone coverage. Jalen’s long strides and shiftiness to press up into guards’ faces and be a disruptive defensive presence. Suggs lower body strength allows him to maintain his position and prevents him from being moved off by bumps or initiated contact. Watch how he stays low and presses into the Pacers rookies body to disrupt the shot with the clock winding down.
Excelling at point of attack defense. His navigation of screens stands out defending as a chaser when necessary checking most boxes when it comes to man-to-man defense
Jalen Suggs is one of the quickest lateral defenders in the NBA, which allows him to mirror speedy guards — combined with his elite reaction time, which is necessary to respond as suddenly as he does to dribble moves. In Jamahl Mosley’s scheme, he plays the role of a chaotic defensive presence, roaming the court to wreak havoc all over the floor. His engagement on the ball helped him log multiple steals throughout the season attempting to get involved at half-court relying on instincts to generate on-ball blitzes
Steals Per Game (NBA)
Steals Per Game (Sophomore)
Steals Per Game (ORL)
(1.3) T-8th -- Amongst All NBA players
(1.3) 2nd-- Amongst All Sophomore players
(1.3) T-2nd-- Amongst All Orlando Magic players
He’s primarily matched up against wings and perimeter creators where he makes use of his wingspan and length to contest on close-outs closing the gap effectively. Players shot the ball from deep 228 times with Suggs as the primary defender on 35.5% from deep this season.
Away from the ball he encompasses his ability to jump lanes and clog up passing lanes and angles, resulting in turned-away drives and tagging rollers and cutters near the nail. Anticipatory plays like the one below come from a deep understanding of player tendencies and knowing what's likely coming, leading to deflections on one end and buckets on the other.
Charges Drawn Amongst Guards
Loose Balls Recovered
Deflections Per Game
He reads passing decisions often and will regularly shoots gaps within the seam of the offense. His 2.6 percent steal rate ranked in the 95th percentile in the NBA. Not only did he fare well in steal rate, Suggs shined with a 2.1 percent block rate to finish in the 70th percentile. He’s a legitimately effective interior defender and provides help-side rim protection by sending your shot off the backboard and into his teammates hands for more offensive possessions.
In essence, when the numbers and tape aligned, Suggs has become an uncanny defensive ace head coaches have had to scheme around in just his sophomore season. How Suggs garners the degree of investment that amplifies his imminent defensive stardom whenever Orlando is less catered toward development hinges on his offensive progression. This year, the cutting, off-ball movement, and connective passing were all positives. Defense is nearly impossible to quantify. Teams have different systems and play designs. Players have additional responsibilities. These metrics don’t quantify executing rotations or blowing up actions before they happen. All they can do is try to sift through our imperfect data and spit out a number that attempts to quantify the impact of winning.
DEF Plus Minus
1.2 (86 percentile)
Preferably, the Magic emphasize Paolo Banchero, Markelle Fultz, Wendell Carter Jr., and Franz Wagner as the pillars to use Suggs off the ball, where he can flourish and bolster his efficiency in a more suitable role that does not require him to be a lead creating guard. Accentuating Suggs offensively means understanding his bright spots as well as his deficiencies. Often times due to a lack of a bevy of perimeter threats, he was found stashed on the wings.
There are some compelling avenues Orlando deployed throughout the season offensively for him; it just demands creativity that ascends above a flood of pick-and-rolls, dribble-hand offs accompanied by shooting and decision-making development. In terms of growth, none was more significant than his three-point shooting, taking a massive stride as the season progressed.
Jalen Suggs improved his 3P% by 10% this year, going from 21.4% to 31.9%
First 23 games: 26.1% from 3 on 4 attempts per game
Last 26 games: 37.8% from 3 on 3.5 attempts per game
Overall from last season to this season, Jalen Suggs improved his 3P% by 11.3%. That was the 2nd biggest jump among all players who took at least 150 3s in both seasons
Above the Break
Right Corner 3
Left Corner 3
FG%: 55/173 (31.8%)
FG: 0/2 (0%)
FG%: 6/15 (40%)
FG%: 5/12 (41.7%)
Points Per Possession: 0.95
Points Per Possession: 0.00
Points Per Possession: 1.20
Points Per Possession: 1.25
Utilizing his individual strengths in various ways puts stress on the defense, making it easier to generate good looks on offense. The more comfortable Jalen Suggs got from beyond the arc, the more Orlando used him in actions to create shots for him on set plays. He had opportunities to flash special shot-making late in the season when Orlando was given the final death blow tarnishing their play-in chances for the season.
Dribble Pitch Screen “Boris Diaw”
Rather then dribble to the guard’s body (Bol Bol) pitches the ball to (Jalen Suggs) ahead and sprints in to set a screen on the guards defender (Cedi Osman). Suggs sprints from the corner to the outside edge replacing Caleb Houstan to bury the triple.
As one of the faster players on the roster Orlando utilized Jalen Suggs speed on offense via the "Get" concept. Get is a concept where a player (usually a guard) passes to a teammate (usually a big) and then follows his pass to receive a handoff. In this case Caleb Houstan motions Jalen Suggs to be the “Get” receiver. Mo Wagner provides a ball-screen on Raul Neto with his defender (Robin Lopez) in drop coverage.
Same “Get” Action concept here on a Sideline out-of Bounds play. These are effective for the simple reason that players move faster without the ball than with it. For some players, especially those not known for their handle like Jalen Suggs, the get action can create more separation than dribbling into a ball-screen.
Notwithstanding some inconsistencies to be expected with any sophomore, Suggs has been a helpful contributor off the bench for Orlando and a starter earlier in the season when the team was derailed by injuries gasping for some shape of continuity. But his progression, much like the team, has been a delight to witness.
From a player who came into the league with a hefty scoring bag and the ability to score on all three levels, it has been a bit of a patchy start. Even within a sixth-man role, he can look limited on the offensive end if his shot is not falling. However, Orlando has started to mitigate those performances by using him as a screener and having bigs operate from the elbows to find him as a cutter on 45' and backdoor cuts. Utilizing him as a gadget offensively flashed his abilities as a finisher and vertical athlete.
Cutting Layup Shot
Cutting Dunk Shot
FG: 4/6 (66.7%)
FG: 1/1 (100%)
Points Per Possession: 1.33
Points Per Possession: 2.00
As the season wore on, he became more comfortable operating in the midrange, lofting in floaters or wielding space, creating craft for short pull-ups and open-rim finishes. Suggs uses his speed to slam his breaks when defenders believe he's going to drive hard to the rack to punish defenders unleashing his pull-up arsenal.
Pull-Up Jump Shot
Step Back Jumper
FG: 12/25 (48%)
FG: 4/8 (50%)
FG: 2/4 (50%)
FG: 1/6 (16.7%)
Points Per Possession: 0.96
Points Per Possession: 1.00
Points Per Possession: 1.00
Points Per Possession: 0.33
As a sophomore player there were a plethora of missed shots, missed rotations and disjointed moments this season. Orlando's relative strong end to this campaign should not shift the focus away from the goals of medium, and long-term development, which are the only things that will get them anywhere anyway. A front office destined to have roster shake up in addiction to welcoming two lottery talents, it will be interesting to see how things unfold this summer. But Jalen Sugg's has left nothing on the table in gunning for the starting two guard spot next season.
Follow Fawzan Amer on Twitter