2021 NBA Draft Odds & Picks: The Case for Betting Jalen Suggs To Go No. 1 Overall
Jamie Squire/Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Suggs.
After a fantastic NCAA Tournament capped by a Baylor Bears championship, college hoops fans now reset the batteries and turn their attention toward the NBA Draft on July 29.
The 2021 draft class is loaded with talent, with several potential players having multi-year All-Star upside.
Most bettors are debating whether to back Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham, USC’s Evan Mobley, or G-League sensations Jonathan Kuminga or Jalen Green as the first overall pick. But there is tremendous value on a prop bet backing Gonzaga’s Jalen Suggs as the top NBA selection in July.
The rationale? Very simple.
Suggs was an elite five-star prospect coming out of Minnehaha Academy in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, he has NBA size and still doesn’t turn 20 until June 3.
Suggs brings incredible length and strength to the position, translating his elite football skills into a versatile two-way style on the court.
Suggs possesses elite speed with the basketball, as proven by his legendary 3-pointer to defeat UCLA in the Final Four.
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) April 4, 2021
Suggs can create with both hands, is solid from 3, and is also a ferocious defender. Many high-level players are poor on the defensive end, yet Suggs’ ball pressure is one of the most underrated parts of his game.
Over Gonzaga’s last nine games, Suggs recorded two or more steals on six occasions. He is an as good, if not better, athlete than any other player being considered as the No. 1 overall pick.
There is a huge chasm of underappreciation for just how good Suggs was this season. Cunningham and Mobley posted strong numbers, but both were the focal point of their team’s offense. As a comparison:
- Cunningham: 35.4 MPG, 20.1 PPG, 6.2 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.6 SPG, 43.8% FG, 40% 3P
- Mobley: 33.9 MPG, 16.4 PPG, 8.7 RPG, 2.4 APG, 2.9 BPG, 57.8% FG
- Suggs: 28.8 MPG, 14.1 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.6 APG, 2.0 SPG, 50.2% FG, 33.3% 3P
Suggs averaged over five fewer minutes than Mobley and almost seven fewer minutes per game than Cunningham. His field goal percentage was higher than Cunningham’s while averaging more steals per game. The Gonzaga freshman is also a solid 76.8% shooter from the free-throw line.
In Gonzaga’s Elite Eight win over USC, Suggs almost tallied a triple-double, finishing with 18 points, 10 rebounds, and eight assists. In its title game loss to Baylor, Suggs tied for the game’s leading scorer with 22 points and added two steals despite sitting early in the game with two quick fouls.
Suggs has shown he can fill up the box score in every way possible and has done so despite playing significantly less than his two college counterparts.
It’s not quantifiable, but Suggs certainly has the “clutch gene.”
We have seen Suggs perform on national television under intense pressure, something that both Kuminga and Green cannot say. While there were limited fans at all the games, Suggs has shown throughout the season that he plays his best in the biggest moments.
Suggs was the best player on the floor in the first college game he ever played. The freshman scored 24 points with eight assists and two steals in the Bulldogs’ 102-90 rout of Kansas on Nov. 26. He then scored 27 points with six rebounds, four assists, and three steals in Gonzaga’s 99-88 thrashing of Iowa. That performance by Suggs came off a COVID-19 pause after Gonzaga hadn’t practiced for two weeks.
Suggs was the best all-around player on Gonzaga despite playing with a consensus first-team All-American in Corey Kispert and fellow second-team All-American in Drew Timme. Oftentimes, Suggs was the second or third option on his own team, thus limiting his upside statistically.
Yet, when the Zags needed a big play or basket in the NCAA Tournament, Suggs delivered every time.
Lost in the excitement of his game-winning shot was this incredible defensive play and pass just moments earlier.
JALEN SUGGS! THE BLOCK! THE PASS!
— Complex Sports (@ComplexSports) April 4, 2021
Currently, Suggs is listed at +950 to be the first overall pick of the 2021 NBA Draft. Given his talent, defensive ability, efficiency, and ability to rise to the moment, he would be my selection as the top player.
At +950, there’s legitimate betting value on Suggs to be the first player off the board in July.