Jalen Suggs NBA Draft Odds, Profile, Outlook: How the Gonzaga Guard Will Fare in the NBA
Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Jalen Suggs.
Jalen Suggs NBA Draft Odds & Profile
|Projected Pick (Odds)||No. 4 (-150)|
|Odds as of Friday, July 9 and via BetMGM.|
Oklahoma State’s Cade Cunningham is the massive favorite to be drafted first overall. After Cunningham, the field is far from finalized, though as of Friday morning, G-League prospect Jalen Green has emerged as the front-runner to go second while USC big man Evan Mobley is the current favorite to go No. 3.
Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs is the favorite to go No. 4 as of Friday morning.
Everyone knows about Suggs after Gonzaga’s near unbeaten season, but what’s he look like as a prospect? Let’s dig in.
Suggs Was at His Best in the Biggest Moments
It’s the moments that stood out most with Suggs.
He made his debut against Kansas before a national audience, basically the tip-off of the college hoops season. One minute into his career, he made a shockingly veteran play.
He dug down in defense to double the post, used quick hands to rip the ball away, then dribbled the length of the court with multiple changes of direction through the defense, finishing with a nifty crossover.
It was an NBA play from every angle and a heck of a first impression. Suggs scored 17 in the second half to push Gonzaga to its first win, looking like a four-year senior with his poise, instincts, and smooth play.
Made a quick video showing some of what popped on the offensive side of the ball for Jalen Suggs vs Kansas. Some of these clips are simply him looking up to get started on the fast break/secondary break sooner, so keep eyes out for those. Really high IQ plays. pic.twitter.com/Scyj9EWvV3
— Spencer (@SKPearlman) November 27, 2020
A month later, Suggs had one of the prospect games of the season against another top-10 opponent, Iowa. He hit seven 3-pointers — almost all of them above the break and right on target — and scored 27 points in a comfortable win. Even with the Zags in the lead late, Suggs had a jaw-dropping chase-down block from the wing, showing off his competitive fire and athleticism.
Suggs scored 20 points just five times, but he did so in what were arguably Gonzaga’s five biggest games: against Kansas and Iowa, at BYU in Gonzaga’s toughest conference game, against BYU again in a comeback win to clinch the conference championship, and against Baylor in the national title game.
Of course, Gonzaga wouldn’t have even played in the championship game were it not for Suggs’ Final Four heroics against UCLA. Surely you remember the amazing buzzer-beater 3-pointer to knock off the Bruins. It was an incredible once-in-a-lifetime shot, one that will be played on every March for the next 50 years.
But it’s not the shot that impressed me most about that play. It’s the preternatural awareness before and after it. With the perfect season on the line, nine players paused momentarily after UCLA scored to send the game to another overtime, but Suggs was ready.
As Johnny Juzang’s putback rippled through the net with 3.3 seconds left, Suggs was already in motion. He demanded the ball on the inbound and caught it on the run against a backpedaling defense, took three precise dribbles to get as close to the basket as possible, and pulled up.
Gonzaga's Jalen Suggs throws up a miracle half-court shot to beat UCLA in OT and advance to the #NCAAChampionship. Instant classic. Unbelievable.#FinalFour #MajorOnions pic.twitter.com/C57t8w9gTr
— Billy Krumb (@ClubhouseCancer) April 4, 2021
And watch Suggs immediately after the play. In a weird empty pandemic arena, Suggs recognizes the all-time moment and has the wherewithal to run and leap onto a table Kobe-style, screaming into a crowd of cardboard cutouts.
“Major onions … with a kiss!!”
That was special — but that game-winning 3 wasn’t even the best Suggs play of the night.
With under two minutes left in a tie game, Suggs made the play before the play. It starts with an impressive ball denial, fighting hard in defense. Suggs switches multiple times, fighting over a screen and responding in time for a spectacular chase-down block on a bigger man at the rim.
But rather than pounding his chest or celebrating, Suggs gathers control, keeping one foot inbound, and immediately goes defense-to-offense. He takes two quick dribbles and throws the perfect bounce pass through UCLA traffic to hit Drew Timme in stride for the dunk. Voila! Four-point swing to save the perfect season.
TWO. WAY. MADNESS.
✅ Jalen Suggs block
✅ Drew Timme dunk pic.twitter.com/o7AGVns8wz
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) April 4, 2021
Considering the moment and the impact, it was one of the most impressive prospect plays I’ve ever seen.
Suggs always shines brightest in the biggest moments. But how does the rest of his game look in the in-betweens?
Well-Rounded, But Not Elite
Suggs averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 4.5 assists a game on 50% shooting, including an impressive 59% on 2-pointers and a good-enough 34% on 3s.
There’s no singular red flag skill that’s lacking, but many of the skills seem like 7s or 8s without one clear 10 to hang your hat on. That gives Suggs a high floor as a prospect, but it does leave some questions about his ceiling.
Suggs is a clear NBA athlete. He gets downhill quickly in transition, and he has rare strength and explosiveness for a guard. Suggs has a powerful frame and shoulders. He can rip the ball away on defense, chase down a block from behind, and jam it home with power over an unsuspecting opponent.
But he just as clearly lacks elite high-end burst and is more quick than he is fast. He routinely failed to turn the corner on sub-NBA-athlete defenders when he tried to attack the rim in half-court offense — not just against Baylor and Kansas but against lesser opponents like Creighton, BYU, and Loyola.
Suggs can be unstoppable in transition, both as a scorer and as a passer, but I repeatedly noticed he was unable to generate offense on his own unless things were super spaced out. Luckily for Suggs, Gonzaga played an optimal offense that made him look good.
Despite the lack of burst, Suggs is often able to get to his spots by controlling the pace of play. He has that rare ability to play the game at his speed. Suggs has outstanding body control and change of direction and speed, plus the power and contortion to finish at the rim. He uses those abilities to control the game even without elite NBA burst. Think acceleration, not top-end velocity.
Suggs should be a good defender at the next level thanks to his athleticism and feel for the game. He had at least one steal in all but two games and averaged 1.9 steals per game for the season. He probably won’t be a lockdown defender, but plays good team defense.
That’s the story with Suggs’s handle too: good, not great. He has a smooth dribble drive but can be a bit loose with the handle. Suggs averaged 2.9 turnovers per game, a 20% turnover rate that’s a bit high as historically great as Gonzaga’s offense was. He averaged 3.7 turnovers per game in six NCAA tourney games — and remember, that was in an optimized offense, and one in which Suggs didn’t have to take on a huge role. It’s a concern.
The shot is a definite question mark and one of the biggest areas Suggs will need to improve to live up to his draft status. He finished 35-of-104 on 3s. That 33.7% is not bad, but it’s not good enough, and the shot was streaky. He hit only 28% of his tourney 3s and had some really poor misses at times. His shot can be all over the place.
Suggs hit 86-of-114 free throws, often a better indicator of shooting ability. That 75.4% is like the rest — good but not great. Suggs doesn’t have to be an elite shooter, and he probably won’t be, but he can be good.
Vision, Feel, Intangibles, and Leadership Make Suggs a Star
One of the most standout Suggs traits is his terrific vision as a creator.
Suggs was a multi-sport high school athlete. He was Minnesota’s Mr. Football, a state champion quarterback, and you see it in his game. Like a quarterback, Suggs manipulates the defense with his eyes, moving defenders to create new passing lanes. He’s a creative passer with potential crossover ability a la Patrick Mahomes using his baseball skills as a football player.
Suggs sees and reads the floor so quickly for his age. He’s a quarterback reading the defense, looking for passing lanes. You need those natural quarterback skills to instantly turn a blocked UCLA shot on one end into a game-breaking fast break pass on the other. Suggs makes really advanced pick-and-roll reads and has some zip on his passes. That QB ability is on display in the unique angles, timing, and touch on his passes. His feel is outstanding.
In the end, that feel for the game and leadership may be Suggs’s best traits. His instincts stood out from Game 1 against Kansas. He sees the floor clearly and reads the game so quickly, picking the outmatched defense apart with the help of outstanding Gonzaga spacing and superior talent.
The leadership stood out all year. Gonzaga came one win away from the first unbeaten college season in 45 years on a team loaded with NBA talent, and its fiery freshman point guard was the heart of the team. Timme was the engine of the offense, but Suggs was the battery that made everything tick.
One of my favorite Suggs watches all season was a game against Pepperdine. Suggs got into foul trouble and barely even played while Gonzaga rolled. Many other freshmen would check out in a spot like that, but not Suggs. His body language on the bench was outstanding, coaching up the guys still on the court and motivating his team from the bench. That’s leadership.
“Explosive” is not typically a word you’d use to describe a player’s leadership, but Suggs has an explosive leadership. It reminds me of Damian Lillard the way his team gravitates toward him. Just look at that UCLA game-winning moment again.
Overall NBA Fit: A Smart, Versatile, High Floor Guard
It’s hard to see Suggs failing in the NBA.
His rounded, all-around game combined with his outstanding intangibles, awareness, and feel for the game give him a very high floor. Remember how how Suggs has a lot of 7s and 8s in his game? The lack of a clear weakness will earn him early playing time and keep him out there, and that’s huge for player development. That high floor will make Suggs a pro for a long time.
Some NBA team is going to fall in love with Suggs’s competitive fire, work ethic, and leadership. He’s the sort of guy who will always be more valuable than the sum of his numbers. Think Kyle Lowry or Chauncey Billups. Suggs may not have the ceiling of an NBA engine point guard, and he’s not likely to be a 25-point scorer. Instead, picture something like 13 points, five rebounds, and six assists with tough defense and an all-around effort.
We’ve mentioned a few potential NBA comps, but Lillard, Lowry, and Billups are all much better shooters than Suggs is right now. Obviously any Hall of Fame outcome would be pretty good. Something like Malcolm Brogdon or Lonzo Ball might be more likely — good, smart team players who don’t typically wow with big numbers but make the right play and improve their teams with all-around games.
The concern with Suggs is whether he matches the ceiling of the other top prospects in this draft, like Cunningham, Mobley, or Green.
As much as the high floor should make Suggs a longtime pro, the lack of explosive burst, elite handle, and outstanding shooting limit his upside as a potential star. While Cunningham and Mobley played in cramped spacing that hurt their games, Suggs played in an optimized Gonzaga environment with great spacing, typically against subpar athletes in a weaker conference. That doesn’t discount what Suggs did, but it’s a concern.
The question marks around the ultimate upside are what keep Suggs out of that top tier atop the draft. They’re why he isn’t quite in contention for the number one pick. But his all-around game, intangibles, and well-rounded game make him a clear top-five pick and a great addition to any NBA team.
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