Long before he banked the near half-court shot to send Gonzaga into tonight's NCAA Basketball Tournament title game, people smarter than I ever could be in basketball told me Jalen Suggs will be an elite NBA player. Respecting their experienced eye for talent, I watched Suggs play game after game and long before he saved Gonzaga's unbeaten season I was all-in.
But before we talk about Suggs, the basketball player, let's talk about Suggs and what could have been in another sport.
Jalen Suggs had offers from Georgia, Michigan State. Iowa, Iowa State and Minnesota to play quarterback for them. You see, Jalen Suggs was an all-state QB who led his team to a state title his junior season in Minnesota. He was the first high school player in his state to be named both Mr. Football and Basketball in the same season. But eventually, football coaches knew. They knew Suggs had the talent to play major college football but his future as a star would be in basketball where he was a five star recruit and one of the most sought-after players in the country.
Suggs was 15-years old when his first basketball came, from Georgia Tech. Other offers followed from the likes of: Baylor, UNLV, Iowa State, Minnesota, Marquette, Arizona State, UCLA, Wake Forest, West Virginia, Pitt, Georgia, Michigan State, Arkansas and......Gonzaga. On January 3, 2020 Suggs committed to Gonzaga where everyone knew he would be a one-and-done for Mark Few. But Suggs was joining a loaded roster that had a chance to compete for a national title.
When the year began, mock drafts had Suggs as a likely top-10 pick. And his stock has only soared as the year went on. Even before his shot to beat UCLA, Suggs was viewed as the likely second pick of the draft behind Oklahoma State's Cade Cunningham. I was in camp Suggs before Saturday night and I am still in today.
Suggs looks and plays like a star. He sees the floor better than anyone in the college game. He can get from one end of the floor to the other like Russell Westbrook. He can score. He can defend. He can take over games. He is a leader on the court and his basketball IQ is off the charts. That's not me saying that but basketball people who evaluate talent for a living. He makes those around him better by the way he plays. When the offense breaks down, he gets the ball and gets a shot.
Some guys are good players, great players just have that look that makes them stand out. Cade Cunningham is a really good player and whoever selects him will get someone who looks like he can be a star. But I just think Suggs is better.
Which brings us to the Magic. I think Terrell Suggs would be the best point guard on the Magic the day he gets on the roster and it's not even close.
Hang on you say and remind me Markelle Fultz was once the number one overall pick in 2017. He was and now almost four years later, while showing some promise with the Magic, he will be coming off ACL surgery and you are hopeful of him returning to the form he showed in 2019. I like Fultz, but I am not sure he will ever shoot the ball well and I don't think he can reach the level of special. Fultz has played a total of 113 games in four years and has yet to show he can stay healthy.
Cole Anthony was a nice selection based on who was on the board in the 2020 NBA Draft and showed some flashes this season before getting hurt. But I am not sure Anthony can develop into a star. And Suggs is better than RJ Hampton today.
Suggs is better than any point guard in Orlando and if the Magic are "rebuilding" again he won't be playing catch up with so many other younger players on the roster. But there is a problem.
The problem is Suggs will be gone before the Magic pick in the 2021 NBA Draft. The Magic are likely to end up 4th and possibly 5th when it comes to the worst record when the season ends. The team could get lucky in the lottery and land in the top or second spot. After Sunday night's game at Denver, the Magic have 20 games left and the Pistons, Rockets and Timberwolves are about to rip off a win streak any time soon.
Should the Magic give up assets to move up and get Suggs if they are picking third or lower? Would you give up one of the first round picks you just acquired at the trade deadline? I'd strongly consider it.
But the Magic have to decide a few things. Is Suggs so special that he's a player you can't pass up if you can get him? In a position-less league, can he play with Fultz? How many point guards can you have on the roster for a team who still needs shooting. The Magic have committed to Fultz by extending him through 2023-24 and I think the organization really believes he can become an elite point guard in the league. That's where we differ. I like Fultz and he's easy to root for because of what he's gone through but just not sure he will become a top-10 point guard.
These are decisions an organization battles when you decide to breakup a roster and go young again. It is not that Orlando can't get an impact player at four or five and I admit it's easy to fall for Suggs and Cunningham after watching them play a season of college basketball while players like Jalen Green and Jonathan Kuminga got little exposure playing in the G-League. But there is a value to Suggs playing on the number one team all season as the pressure mounted to stay unbeaten. And there is a value to play in these six NCAA Tournament games, including a game like the national semifinal against UCLA.
The Magic need a break. They need to get lucky in one of these lotteries. They need to find a star. They need someone exciting to generate real buzz. They acquired assets when they chose to make the recent trades. No one says you can't use some of those assets in the coming months.
Magic President Jeff Weltman likely bought himself three more years running the team when ownership signed off on the rebuild. I like Weltman and he guessed right with Giannis years ago. This time, he doesn't need to find a gem at 15(where Giannis went). He needs to find someone that becomes a star, something this team desperately needs.
Jalen Suggs is a star. He might be magical, but it might also be with another team.
Final thought: Godzilla has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
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