As Darren mentioned a couple of days ago, Zach Harper at The Athletic reported (subscription required but recommended) that Houston’s top brass is actually deciding between Jalen Green and Jalen Suggs, and not Evan Mobley as most mock drafts would have you believe.
We all know that I’m biased when it comes to any Gonzaga Bulldogs, so we brought in someone more knowledgeable about Suggs’s game: Peter Woodburn of The Slipper Still Fits, which is the Gonzaga blog here on SB Nation. You can find him on Twitter here.
Peter was kind enough to answer questions about a slew of Zags, but since Suggs is the current topic of discussion, we’ll start with him today.
Most Rockets fans feel like the decision with the #2 overall pick comes down to Jalen Green and Evan Mobley. Why should Rafael Stone and the front office select Jalen Suggs with that pick?
Jalen Suggs arrived at Gonzaga as one of the most hyped prospects in school history, and from his very first college bucket, he demonstrated he was ready. Suggs is an incredible athlete and was one of the best quarterbacks in Minnesota high school athletics. He only transitioned to full-time basketball when arriving at Gonzaga. At the NBA level, his athleticism will of course be matched by plenty of other players, but that football mindset brings a level of aggressiveness and toughness you usually don’t see in players so young. Suggs is fearless and excels at driving to the basket and drawing contact. He also has an unreal court vision, perhaps made more impressive because of his background as a quarterback, maybe not, who knows. Everyone will remember him for the buzzer-beating three to beat UCLA in the Final Four, but to me, this was the epitome of what Suggs can do.
What is an underrated skill that Suggs brings to the table?
Suggs is a big-time playmaker and bucket getter. That by no stretch is a rarity in the NBA, but Suggs arrived on campus to be the big man in Spokane and bring the first national championship home. Of course, the Zags fell woefully short of said goal against Baylor, but Suggs tried his damndest to make sure they didn’t. Everyone else forgot to show up, but if you look back at the game, Suggs was charging hard from the very beginning to the very end. He is one of those players who is primed for the big moment and can turn on that switch to seize the day. You look at some of the best games of his very short college career, and they all came against the big-time opponents.
What’s Suggs’s biggest weakness? Is it fixable?
Three-point shooting and yes. Suggs is young and was a two-sport athlete throughout all of high school. I don’t think he necessarily completely focused on basketball like a lot of other high-end prospects throughout his high school years, and his athleticism was able to take him a very long way. In the NBA, that won’t be the case. Suggs only shot 33.7 percent from three-point range last season, and that number drops below 30% if you take out his 7-of-10 long-range night against Iowa.
That said, his jump shot is by no means fundamentally broken. He just needs some more coaching, and any team that is drafting him will know that. At the moment, however, his jump shot is the thing that is holding him back to being one of the top rookies. I’d imagine with an offseason of feedback in that regard, it won’t be much of an issue at the start of the season.
In what sort of situation is Suggs best suited to succeed at the NBA level?
The Gonzaga offense is based around motion, movement, and spacing, and that heavily played into Suggs’ success. He was able to find isolate on mismatches and use his athleticism to blow by slower defenders. At the same time, the squad had players like Corey Kispert to drill shots from outside, so they didn’t need to rely on Suggs to be the primary shot-taker from distance. Defensively, Suggs is totally fine. He has sneaky hands and sometimes overcommits on passes, nothing new for any college freshman however. As Suggs demonstrated at Gonzaga, he is ready for the highest level of play. He is ready to be a starter, and like all young lottery picks, will have those moments you just have to live with and coach out of his play. He is a stat-stuffer but will probably need to be paired with a more consistent outside shooter to help keep the spacing open.
Can Jalen Suggs be the best player on an NBA championship team?
Unequivocally yes. Next year? Probably not. In five years? Sure. I think one of the most impressive things about Jalen Suggs is that he entered Gonzaga as a five-star prospect on the team that was the preseason ranked No. 1 squad. The expectations were there from the get-go. Virtually every single national college writer/announcer/anyone with a brain came away from his season beyond impressed—pretty much instantly. From there, he just built upon that success.
Who will be the better pro: Jalen Suggs or Chet Holmgren?
Oh man I don’t even know about that one yet. Haven’t seen much of Holmgren outside of YouTube clips but the kid is a unicorn. Between the two, he has the higher upside.
Huge thanks to Peter for giving us this insight. We’ll have more with him in the coming days as he helps us break down other Zags that could be drafted by the Rockets.