In a game where he tied his career-high in made threes (four) and was two points shy of setting a new career-high in scoring, it was Jalen Suggs’ defense that stood out during Orlando’s season-opener loss to the Detroit Pistons.
Although Suggs ultimately fouled out of the game Wednesday night, the second-year guard made a handful of impact plays in his 25 minutes of action.
The first notable defensive play Suggs made in this game was when he stopped Bojan Bogdanovic from getting a layup.
Bogdanovic uses a rip through move to beat Paolo Banchero off the dribble, but Suggs slides down from the perimeter and beats him to the rim, allowing Banchero to recover in time to make a play on the ball.
Suggs then finishes the play with a great outlet pass to Franz Wagner for a layup, part of a 19-0 run for the Magic in the first quarter.
Few guards deter opponents at the rim the way Suggs does. During his rookie season, his opponents shot 4.7% worse within six feet of the basket.
Another solid defensive play Suggs made in the first quarter was this ball denial on Pistons’ rookie Jaden Ivey.
While it looks like a routine play, given Ivey’s elite quickness compounded with the fact that Suggs was called for a foul on a similar play minutes prior to this highlights both Suggs’ athletic ability and his in-game defensive adaptation.
In the third quarter, Suggs stringed together a number of great reads, once again starting with his defense.
Suggs starts the possession defending the inbounder. Once the ball is inbounded, Suggs sees that Wagner is a step behind Detroit’s Cade Cunningham. Suggs stunts at Cunningham, halting a drive to the basket, and Cunningham is forced to pull back.
Cunningham then puts a nifty move on Wagner and gets into the lane. Watch Suggs help off his man, track the ball as Cunningham attempts a lay-down pass and snatch the ball for his second steal of the game.
Suggs then converts a layup on the other end to bring Orlando to within three points.
Lastly, this play displays how good Orlando’s team defense can be, but also showcases Suggs’ engagement on that end.
Suggs nearly intercepts Bogdanovic’s pass for his third steal of the game, but mistimes his jump and finds himself out of position. Notice then how Wendell Carter Jr. slides up to stop any dribble penetration from Ivey while Banchero and Terrence Ross simultaneously slide over to thwart a pass to Isaiah Stewart as he rolls to the basket.
Ivey swings the ball back to Bogdanovic, with Suggs nearly getting a steal once again, and Suggs contests a potential shot attempt before Bogdanovic kicks it back to Ivey.
The play ends with a great defensive stand from Carter Jr., as he forces Ivey to take a contested step back jumper late in the shot clock.
Despite the loss, The Magic’s first game of the 2022-23 season came with a lot of positives. Down a number of rotational players, Orlando lost to a competitive Pistons team by just four points on the road. Not only that, Banchero was stellar in his NBA debut, Wagner totaled 20 points and Carter Jr. recorded his first of many double-doubles this season.
All that being said though, if Suggs maintains this level of play defensively and continues to develop on the offensive side of the floor, the former top-five pick could be in line for a breakout season.