LAS VEGAS — Jalen Suggs could not have been more on brand in his debut in an Orlando Magic uniform.
The Magic drafted him No. 5 because he played a fearless style at Gonzaga, always going all-out, never backing down from big moments, and he can make plays on both ends. With his Summer League debut game tied 83-83 with less than :30 seconds left, Suggs found himself the defender against a 2-on-1 Warriors break — and he got the game-saving block.
— Orlando Magic (@OrlandoMagic) August 10, 2021
Then in overtime, Suggs scored the first six points as the Magic went on to win.
There is little as meaningless in basketball as a player’s first Summer League game, but a rebuilding Magic team hopes this is a sign of things to come for Suggs.
“The guy is a hooper. He is always ready to hoop and ready to play,” said fellow rookie Franz Wagner, who had five points in his debut. “I think his real personality comes out in the games. He had a great game today and I’m sure he is going to have a couple of more during the season.”
Suggs scored a game-high 24 points on 9-of-22 shooting (3-of-6 from three) and added nine rebounds.
“Man, I felt like a little kid on Christmas, to be honest,” Suggs said. “It was so much fun, getting out and running a game, getting the rhythm, getting the flow. I haven’t played five-on-five, aside yesterday [during practice], since the [NCAA] national championship game. Just getting out there and running around, being with a bunch of teammates, it was fun.”
Suggs making plays at the end of games is what he expects and what the Magic hope to see more of
“Just wanting to be there I think is the biggest thing,” Suggs said of his mindset at the end of games. “I want to be the one who’s in position to make a play when it’s time to win. When it’s time to make winning plays, I want the ball in my hands.”
“I think he’s shown that in his time at Gonzaga, he has really shown he’s not afraid of the moment, but he’s also willing to trust his teammates at times and making the right plays at times,” Orlando coach Jamahl Mosley said.
Having Suggs out there allowed the Magic to play up-tempo, something Mosley wants more of. He ran a little of Suggs/Cole Anthony/R.J. Hampton together and said he might try to do that a little more when the games matter this fall, again in the name of pace and space.
Having Suggs grab nine rebounds helps with the pace, also.
“We talk about good offense starts being able to secure the rebound defensively, and when you have guards who can rebound then get out and push it, it allows you to play with pace,” Mosley said.
It’s all good signs. Summer League is a chance to dream of what a player can be more than a valuable measuring stick (at least for rookies, it is a good way to benchmark the progress of older players). We are all a long way from knowing what kind of player Suggs will be in a couple of years.
But he has been as advertised so far, and that’s a good thing for Orlando.