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NBA draft: How Jalen Suggs would fit with the Raptors

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After an impressive NCAA run to help lead the Gonzaga Bulldogs to its second National Championship appearance with a three-point, buzzer-beating game-winner, the first in a Final Four game since 1977, freshman guard Jalen Suggs seems to have propelled himself into consideration as a potential top-five pick in the upcoming 2021 NBA draft.

Despite coming up short of a national title in an 86-70 loss against the Baylor Bears, the freshman guard averaged 14.4 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 33.7 percent from three and a staggering 50.3 percent from the field in his sole college season.

During his college tenure, Suggs accumulated accolades such as the West Coast Conference (WCC) Tournament Most Outstanding Player, WCC Newcomer of the Year, WCC All-Freshman Team, and First-Team All-WCC.

With the Toronto Raptors possessing the fourth pick in the lottery and NBA mock drafts projecting Suggs as the No. 4 pick, here’s a look at what the Gonzaga guard could potentially bring to Toronto.

Strengths

Suggs' leadership, court awareness and play-making skills were on full display during his run at Gonzaga as the 20-year-old top prospect showed his ability to consistently find open teammates while delivering accurate and pinpoint passes — whether in pick-and-rolls, drive-and-kick or in transition.

For example, Suggs wastes no time pushing the ball once he notices four Creighton players failing to get back defensively. He then exploits their lack of awareness by executing a half-court bounce pass between two defenders to give the cutting Andrew Nembhard an open dunk.

The former Gonzaga guard is constantly aware of his surroundings and is more than capable of delivering precise passes as he effortlessly throws a full-court pass to Joel Ayayi as shown in this clip.

As a 6-foot-4, 205-pound guard, Suggs possesses strong defensive upside with the ability to defend on-and-off the ball while moving his feet well, active hands and great anticipation skills to disrupt the ball-handler or intercept the passing lane.

Suggs also showcases his off-ball defence with attentiveness to where the ball is going, as seen here.

While defending his matchup, Suggs anticipates the pass and hustles to disrupt the play, which leads to a fast break.

He isn’t afraid to challenge at the rim either as he recovers back on defence and comes away with a block to prevent an easy basket, staying vertical to avoid fouling.

Suggs' athleticism and quickness are his greatest assets on the court. Combined with his slightly taller frame and strength, he’s able to flourish in transition or attack the rim and complete the and-1.

Jalen Suggs is projected by many to go No. 4 overall in the NBA draft. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Jalen Suggs is projected by many to go No. 4 overall in the NBA draft. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)

Weaknesses

While Suggs' athleticism allows him to get to the rim with ease, he tends to over rely on it as well and that may not be as effective against more experienced NBA players.

There’s also more to be desired in terms of his shooting consistency and lack of shot creation from the midrange and three-point line. Although he shot 50.3 percent from the field and 33.7 percent from beyond the arc, Suggs mostly thrives in fast-paced situations and scored the majority of his points in transition.

When the pacing slows down, he struggles to find his offence. If Suggs develops a more diverse dribbling skill set it would help improve his scoring on multiple fronts.

His shooting percentages are solid, but having a consistent pull-up jumper while being able to hit contested shots, catch and shoot, or shoot off the dribble will open up his game more.

He already has good shooting mechanics, so it’s more about fine tuning his shot when he enters the league. Suggs developed a floater in college, so there’s no reason to suggest he won’t continue to develop as time goes on.

Fit with the Raptors

With Lowry’s tenure in Toronto up in the air, a top prospect like Suggs would help soften the blow and allow the 20-year-old guard more opportunities to develop in a fast-paced system that seems tailor made for both sides.

Coach Nick Nurse loves to play fast and the organization has reaped the rewards since Nurse took over head coaching duties in 2018.

For transition offence, the Raptors were ranked third in transition points per game and fourth in fast break points per game in 2019, the year they won the championship. In 2020, the team improved and led the league in both transition and fast break points, which resulted in the league’s second best record and the highest winning percentage in franchise history.

During the 2020-2021 campaign, the Raptors dropped to fourth in transition points while falling to ninth in fast break points, and failed to make the playoffs. However, the team did experience other challenges such as a COVID-19 outbreak and being uprooted to another city for the season.

Suggs can be used as a combo guard next to Fred VanVleet without stifling his effectiveness, as he’s had experience at Gonzaga. As previously mentioned, his 6-foot-4 frame adds some more size compared to the Raptors' smaller backcourt the last seven seasons.

He’s also an ultimate competitor and brings great leadership skills that could further evolve under the mentorship of VanVleet.

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