Scouting Report & Film Review: Jalen Suggs

Jalen Suggs was one of the best players in the country and has not only the skills, but also the personality to change the culture for an NBA franchise.

Strengths: Athleticism, passing, scoring versatility, off-ball defense, culture setter

Weaknesses: Staying in control, ball security, outside shooting consistency

Draft Range: Top 4

Ranking: #3

Shades Of: Donovan Mitchell, Ja Morant

Best Team Fits: Anywhere

Jalen Suggs was the highest-ranked recruit to commit to Gonzaga in the program's history, and he did not disappoint. The former number six high school recruit (per ESPN) joined an experienced Gonzaga team with title aspirations and seamlessly became their leading man. Despite falling a game short of ascending to college basketball immortality, what Suggs and Gonzaga accomplished this season was extraordinary.

It isn't uncommon that we see highly-rated prospects come into an experienced team with established pieces and struggle to find their footing. Suggs had no issues with this, and none of it felt forced. Suggs adapted his highly athletic game to fit Gonzaga's team concept of high-level ball movement. He played within the system while also picking his spots on when to take over a game.

Suggs has always been more athletic than everyone else on the court. This sentiment is often a red flag on many prospects because once they face equal levels of athleticism, their only advantage goes out the window. In Suggs's case, he isn't an excellent athlete who happens to play basketball; he's a terrific basketball player who happens to be an incredible athlete.

I mean, did you know that he could have played Division I football!?!? Sorry, I couldn't help myself. I digress.

There will be some bumps in the road for Suggs because when aren't there any? Given his understanding of the game, though, I have zero doubt that Suggs will have a long career. He plays the game "the right way" and is "a winner." While these cliches and platitudes induce eye rolls, they are also incredibly accurate.

Jalen Suggs is immune from fit in the NBA. Wherever he lands, he will help that team succeed. Of course, some places will be more conducive to winning than others. But Suggs's personality can help change a culture. With his athleticism, intangibles, and skills, Jalen Suggs should be a lock as a top-four pick in the 2021 NBA Draft.

Playmaking

A point guard's playmaking ability is essential to their future success. It seems obvious, but generally, point guards who don't solely rely on their scoring to make an impact have careers that age more gracefully. Jalen Suggs can certainly rack up the points, but he is also one of the best playmakers in this draft.

With the pervasiveness of the pick-and-roll in the NBA, primary initiators must be comfortable creating out of it. Gonzaga scored 1.056 points per possession (PPP) this season when Suggs passed out of the pick-and-roll (69th percentile) per Synergy. This efficiency is highly encouraging for Suggs's continued playmaking development. He still needs to improve on his patience, defensive manipulation, and snake-dribbling in the pick-and-roll. However, Suggs proved that he has excellent vision and is a decisive decision-maker.

Gonzaga's NBA-style offense did a great job of spreading the floor, which made running high pick-and-rolls more effective, as we can see below. As Drew Timme goes to set the screen, his defender positions himself to hard-hedge. Timme, however, quickly slips the screen and rolls to the rim. Suggs knows that the paint is empty and only needs to read Timme's defender. Once Suggs recognizes the defensive coverage, he makes a perfect pass to lead Timme to the rim even before Timme turns his head looking for the ball. This quick decision-making is essential because it doesn't allow the help defenders to rotate in time.

While Suggs has shown promise and success as a pick-and-roll playmaker, his playmaking reaches a new level when he attacks off the bounce. Suggs's athleticism makes him a deadly slasher which often means that he has left his initial defender in the dust. This ability helps put his team in advantageous positions and forces the defense to rotate and recover. When the defense does this, Suggs routinely makes them pay with kick-outs to shooters, bounce passes to cutters, or dump-offs to the dunker spot.

Active off-ball players will love playing with Suggs because there will constantly be open spots for them to move into for an easy score. Whether it is an above-the-rim finisher or deadeye shooter, Suggs will quickly become their favorite teammate.

As Gonzaga brings the ball forward, the defense fails to rotate to Suggs. Suggs gladly attacks the space and the slow-footed interior defender. As Suggs hop-steps into the lane, he could attempt a scoop finish with his left or a fadeaway mid-range jumper. Instead, he has his head up, looking for an open teammate. He kicks out to Corey Kispert for an almost guaranteed three points.

Suggs's vision and willingness to pass out of his drives is incredibly impressive for a player his age. It shows his high basketball IQ and his determination to make the right play. Suggs's athleticism will frequently put him in situations where the entire defense is keyed in on him like we just saw. Recognizing these situations and making the correct basketball play out of them is highly encouraging for his future contribution to winning basketball.

Suggs' vision

The most promising aspects of Suggs's playmaking are the vision, touch, and decisiveness he has with his passes. Not many teenagers have the confidence and accuracy to make this outlet pass without hesitation.

While Suggs's buzzer-beater against UCLA will likely have a longer replay life, the below sequence was maybe the best play of the entire season. After an incredible block, Suggs wrangles the loose ball and immediately looks to run in transition. In a four vs. two situation, most guards would likely slow it down and run their offense in a close late-game situation. Instead, Suggs says, "fuck that, get ready to pick up your jaws." Passing accurately while sprinting can be difficult. Passing with one hand, generally, is less accurate. Doing bot,h of those while making a 30-foot bounce pass through four defenders that perfectly leads a teammate to the rim is damn near impossible.

Jalen Suggs can create magic with his passes. His accuracy, touch, and confidence make him an offense-altering playmaker from day one. My only gripe with Suggs's playmaking is his tendency to play out of control. Suggs's combination of athleticism and competitiveness often leads to unnecessary turnovers and wild shots.

When we look at some of the league's best playmakers like Luka Doncic, Chris Paul, LaMelo Ball, James Harden, and others, a common thread is how they can mentally slow down the game. We even see Cade Cunningham do this regularly. Suggs has moments where the game looks like it has slowed down for him, but he is still a ways off from reaching that same level.

We see Suggs's carelessness with the ball the most when he gets doubled. Instead of speeding up his processing, he often speeds up his body, losing control.

Suggs can also be careless with his passes at times. There should be no reason that Suggs turns the ball over here, but he misreads what Kispert is doing and lazily throws a bounce pass to the defense. He manages to win the transition race and makes an absurd block because he is a freak, but the pass still isn't ideal.

Jalen Suggs isn't a perfect playmaker, but he has the potential to be an elite passer in the NBA. He needs to slow the game down mentally, but with more reps and experience, that shouldn't be a long-term concern. Suggs is an incredibly accurate and, more importantly, an exceptionally willing passer.

Attacking the Rim

It is impossible to be a high-level starter in the NBA now if there is no threat of scoring. Great passers still make an impact, but in a much lesser role than in the past. Thankfully, Suggs is a dynamic scorer.

This season, Suggs showed off his scoring versatility in Gonzaga's NBA-style offense. He scored 0.958 PPP overall (73rd percentile) and ranked in the 60th percentile or higher in transition, pick-and-roll, isolation, and cuts.

Suggs's most valuable trait to his scoring repertoire is his athleticism. Suggs regularly outworks his opponents, which makes him a constant threat in transition. This season, transition accounted for 32.3 percent of Suggs's offensive possessions, and he scored 1.069 PPP (60th percentile). After every miss, Suggs is immediately looking to push the ball. Even when he doesn't have the ball, Suggs sprints to fill his lane and attack the rim.

While Virginia meandered their way back on defense, Suggs took off on a full sprint. Once he received the pass, Suggs showed off his body control with the hop step against the defender's momentum. Suggs then uses his quick second jump to finish through contact.

Suggs is also a lethal scorer when attacking in the half-court offense. He is very comfortable scoring out of the pick-and-roll as he ranked in the 68th percentile with 0.963 PPP. Suggs reads the defense well, eagerly manipulates switches, and capitalizes on any defensive lapses.

Here, Suggs makes the defense pay for switching. Suggs dribbles tightly off the Timme screen, which completely dislodges Suggs's defender, forcing the switch. Once Suggs gets the switch, he goes into kill mode. Suggs uses a hesitation dribble which gets the defender to step towards him, anticipating a shot. Suggs quickly uses an in-and-out dribble, and his lightning burst to blow past the defender for an uncontested layup.

Much of Suggs's scoring is predicated on his athleticism and craftiness at getting to the rim. Here, however, we see Suggs patiently operate the pick-and-roll instead of relying purely on his athleticism. As Suggs comes off the screen, he reads the drop defender and that Timme is momentarily held up after screening the defender. If Suggs goes full attack mode, he likely gets swallowed up by the 7'3 rim protector. Suggs also can't pull the ball out because he hasn't forced the switch, and his initial defender would recover, causing the offense to reset. Instead, Suggs slams on the breaks and gets his defender on his hip. This move allows Timme to rejoin the party while still giving Gonzaga a two vs. one situation. Suggs finally gets the drop defender to commit by bursting to the left block. With a shot fake, Suggs gets the shot blocker to fly by before finishing between the two defenders.

This play is crucial for projecting Suggs's future scoring and overall offensive impact. Suggs didn't always show this level of patience running the pick-and-roll, but he did show enough flashes to get excited about. Being able to snake-dribble and keep a defender on your hip is vital to pick-and-roll success. Suggs has demonstrated that he can do it. Now he just needs to do it at a higher rate.

Off-Ball Scoring

Another emerging NBA trend is lineups of multiple ball-handlers or primary initiators or point guards; however, you want to phrase them. The days of a traditional point guard running the show are long gone. Point guards now must also be a threat without the ball. They have to relocate on the perimeter, make back cuts, and shoot off the catch.

Gonzaga ran an offense with multiple ball-handlers, so playing off-ball won't be a shock to Suggs. In fact, Suggs saw quite a bit of success with his off-ball movement. We already saw how effectively he runs in transition without the ball, but his attacking mindset also carries over to the half-court offense.

This season, Suggs scored 1.529 PPP on cuts, ranking in the 93rd percentile. After giving the ball up, Suggs circles through paint and simulates DHO with Timme. Suggs quickly recognizes how aggressively his defender is playing the passing lane, so he promptly plants his right foot and beelines to the rim, where he finishes over the late rotating defender.

Again, Suggs shows excellent recognition of the defense's positioning. As the ball enters the paint, Suggs catches his defender momentarily peeking. Instead of standing pat, Suggs cuts baseline and uses his athleticism to finish with a reverse.

Shooting

Players who can't shoot have become nearly unplayable in the NBA now. They kill spacing and are too easy to scheme against defensively. Not everyone has to be a 40+ percent three-point shooter, but they have to be good enough that the defense doesn't willingly leave them open. I'm not saying that Suggs is a total non-shooter, but I have some concerns with how his shooting progressed.

On the season, Suggs shot 33.7 percent from three on 104 attempts. This number is just good enough where you don't inherently worry about it, but also bad enough that it makes you raise an eyebrow.

Additionally, Suggs scored 0.919 PPP shooting off the catch (39th percentile) and 1.103 PPP shooting off the dribble (93rd percentile). Those numbers don't make sense at all. The off the dribble number is slightly inflated because Suggs is a big fan of taking the one-dribble rhythm jumper.

To further complicate the issue, Suggs shot 36 percent from three through his first 15 games and 31 percent through his final 15 games. Suggs had nine games where he shot at least 40 percent from three, but 13 where he failed to make one.

At times, Suggs's shot looked incredible. He showed that he's capable of pulling up from deep when the defense goes under a screen. His mechanics look sound with a high release point and great arc on the shot.

He also proved that he could shoot off the catch with a soft feathery touch.

Unfortunately, Suggs also showed that he's capable of missing wildly and failing even to hit the rim at times.

I don't think Suggs will be a complete non-shooter in the NBA. However, he has a lot of work to do on his shot. There isn't a glaring issue with his mechanics, but there is a consistency issue. On some shots, he gets his thumb too involved, which causes the bad left-to-right misses. For others, his release point is more of a push instead of a flick. This release causes the long misses off the opposite side of the square. Some nights, Suggs will go off for seven threes like we saw him do against Iowa, but the outside shooting will be a struggle more often than not.

Defense

Like Jalen Suggs's playmaking, his defense will also make a positive impact early in his career. Suggs ranked in the 84th percentile, per Synergy, in overall defensive PPP allowed. His athleticism and competitiveness make him a tenacious defender. He fights through screens, switches on any position, makes quality rotations, and disrupts passing lanes.

After chasing his man across the court, Suggs switches on the dribble hand-off. This switch forces the ball-handler back towards mid-court and makes them set up the pick-and-roll higher than intended. After getting screened, Suggs does a tremendous job working on getting back between the ball and the rim. This effort eliminates any driving lane or shot possibility, and the ball-handler has to kick out for a contested three.

Suggs succeeds as an on-ball defender almost purely through effort and athleticism. To make the next jump, he'll need to commit to staying in his stance and perfecting his perimeter footwork. He will cross his feet, instead of sliding them, to stay with his man. More skilled ball-handlers will more effectively manipulate his balance when he does this in the NBA. Suggs has the work rate and athleticism to recover out of most of these situations, and I know I'm nitpicking, but it is an essential fundamental skill to be a great on-ball defender.

Suggs's most significant defensive impact, though, comes as an off-ball defender. He is constantly looking for lazy offense to capitalize on. Suggs doesn't only cause havoc with his steals and deflections; he also looks to turn it into an easy transition score immediately.

As Auburn swings the ball, Suggs is stalking it the entire time. Once the lazy pass is made, Suggs pounces, gets the retreating defender off balance, and finishes through contact.

Again, Suggs is a menace on defense with a perfectly timed dig on the post-up. Suggs knows that he is matched up with a non-shooter. This allows him to collapse and help on the post-up. As the big man makes his crab dribble, Suggs uses his lightning-quick hands to snatch the ball away and sprint out in transition. Suggs caps off the play with an impressive display of athleticism and body control.

Outlook

Jalen Suggs is one of the elite talents in the 2021 NBA Draft. His combination of athleticism, scoring, playmaking, and defense will make it difficult for teams to pass on him. He is a fierce competitor who can help change a culture.

Suggs is ranked third on my draft guide, and if he falls anywhere past pick number four, it will be a steal. Suggs's game has shades of Donovan Mitchell and Ja Morant. He is a freak athlete who can defend, create for others, and is at his best in the open court. He needs to improve his shooting consistency, but he will be fine if he can make defenses respect his shot.

Worst case scenario, I see Suggs as one of the league's best sixth men. I hesitate to say he'll reach All-NBA level play, not impossible, but I do expect him to make multiple All-Star games and be a key factor to successful teams. His work rate and passion for the game are infectious. Jalen Suggs is the personification of winning basketball.

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