2021 NBA Draft Scouting Reports: Jalen Suggs
In this series, I will be looking at some of the top prospects for the upcoming 2021 NBA Draft. I will also be posting draft rankings eventually. Feel free to comment and share your thoughts. I always enjoy talking basketball.
- Position: PG
- Height: 6'4"
- Weight: 205
- Team: Gonzaga
- Year: Freshman
- Wingspan: 6'5"
- Stats: Games, 14.4 PPG, 5.5 RPG, 4.4 APG, 51.7 % FG, 36.7 3PT%, 71.9% FT, 2.2 SPG, 0.4 BPG, 2.8 TOPG.
Cade Cunningham was thought to be the undisputed top point guard prospect in this year’s draft class entering the year. While he’s lived up to the hype, another freshman phenom in Jalen Suggs has made his case for best floor general in the nation.
It’s widely known that Suggs was an excellent quarterback on the football field in high school, which makes sense given how many Russell Wilson comparisons the freshman has received. Like Wilson, Suggs is an exceptional game manager at the lead guard spot. It doesn’t take long to notice how exceptional Suggs is as a playmaker.
Suggs is precise, unselfish and almost always makes excellent reads no matter where he is on the floor. His facilitating in transition is especially exceptional. Suggs has an assist percentage of 24.1 and is very patient with the ball. Suggs does a great job playing at his own tempo and never seems rattled at the point guard spot. As shown in the clip below, he’s also very deceptive.
Where Suggs can especially be dangerous is out of pick-and-roll sets both as a passer and scorer. Suggs plays with excellent pace and can make difficult passes through traffic to driving teammates. He has proven capable of knocking down outside shots as well, making it dangerous for defenders to go under screens when Suggs has the ball.
As a jump shooter, Suggs is solid but has room to grow. He’s knocking down 36.7 percent of his 3’s on 3.5 attempts a game and is shooting 71.7 percent from the line. Suggs has excellent shooting mechanics and has showcased his range this season on NBA-level 3-pointers.
Suggs has proven to be a threat shooting off the bounce, catch or off a screen. He hit seven 3-pointers against Iowa and has looked fluent as a spot-up shooter.
Defensively, Suggs plays aggressively and does a good job of forcing turnovers. His instincts make up for a lack of elite wingspan on the defensive side of the ball. Suggs has an exceptional 4.2 steal percentage and is also first on the Gonzaga Bulldogs with a 5.1 Defensive Box Plus-Minus rating. He reads passing lanes well, puts pressure on the ball, and doesn’t take many unnecessary gambles on that end either. Per nbadraft.net:
“Suggs averaged 2.5 steals per game over the Under Armour Association in 2017, averaged 1.7 per game in 2018, and led the league with 1.5 steals per game in 2019. Averaged a steal per game at the U16 Americas Championship in 2017. Averaged a 4th most 3.3 steals per game at the U17 World Cup in 2018. Averaged a 6th most 2.4 steals per game at the U19 World Cup in 2019.”
Suggs has also shown the ability to rebound at a high level for a guard. He has the second highest defensive rebounding percentage (19.1) of any player on the Bulldogs and rips down 5.5 boards a game. He plays great help defense, boxes out, and has a high IQ on the defensive end.
Suggs is also a good athlete. He has above averages lateral quickness, which is a big reason why he is an exceptional defender. He has good burst and a fairly quick first step, which helps him attack the basket. Combine these attributes with his above-average speed, bounce and strong frame, and you have an exceptional athlete who shouldn’t have to adjust too much to the increased physicality of the NBA.
Much like Cunningham, Suggs isn’t an elite ball-handler and will have to improve his shiftiness a bit. He does a good job of using hesitations and ins-and-outs to get to the basket, but could improve if he adds more shake-and-bake to his game.
He also needs to improve at attacking with his left hand as better, professional defenses can scheme against him and force him left more than teams at the college level. Suggs still projects as an above average finisher at the rim due to his strength and ability to take contact, but getting better with his left hand would help him take that a step further.
Like most freshmen guards, Suggs can be turnover prone at times. While he did have seven 3’s against the Hawkeyes, he also posted seven turnovers. His turnover percentage is above 20 and he is coughing the ball up just under three times a game.
As previously mentioned, Suggs is very good at making reads, but he’ll have to sharpen up a bit moving forward in terms of taking care of the rock. He can still be loose with the ball and has the tendency to struggle in traffic in half-court sets.
His free throw percentage hasn’t been as high as projected at 71 percent, but this is mostly a nitpick given how well he shot from the free throw line throughout his prep career. His consistency as a shooter is also a bit of a question mark at this point, but it shouldn’t be a major issue.
Suggs has never been a high percentage outside shooter. He’s shown flashes, like the Iowa game, of being a great shooter. Still, he would benefit from continually improving off the dribble with step backs or side-step 3-pointers. Per nbadraft.net:
“Although form isn’t bad, he can improve as a 3PT shooter and sometimes he’s too quick with the trigger. Shot 31.6% 3PT% over the Under Armour Association in 2017, shot 30.3% 3PT% in 2018, and shot 33.3% 3PT% in 2019. Shot 30% 3PT% at the U16 Americas Championship in 2017. Shot 20% 3PT% at the U17 World Cup in 2018. Shot 25% 3PT% at the U19 World Cup in 2019.”
Jalen Suggs has established himself as a surefire top-five pick in this year’s draft, if he wasn’t already before the season started. Most of the weaknesses in his game are nitpicks at this point. He’s also been the beneficiary of being on a stacked Gonzaga team, so it will be interesting to see how he does at the pro ranks with a less-dominant team.
Suggs has such an immense skillset for his position that should transfer tremendously to the NBA. He reminds me of a more-athletic Kyle Lowry for a variety of reasons. He is an excellent leader, makes a lot of terrific plays that don’t show up in the box score, and is hyper-efficient on both ends of the floor. His shot-creating, playmaking, versatility and defensive instincts make him one of the better point guard prospects in recent years. Suggs projects as an effective combo guard and a major plus on both ends of the court.