I made a hot take coming out of that electric Final Four game between Gonzaga and UCLA. You know, the one where Jalen Suggs hit a running forty footer to beat UCLA in overtime and then stood on the announcer’s table like a boss? THE iconic moment of the tournament and one of the great buzzer beaters of all time.
Of course, the world went crazy and I went on This League the next day to declare that what we witnessed in March Madness was a guy playing his way into the #1 pick in the draft.
I know, Hot Take Trysta, right? Prisoner of the moment?
Not so fast.
First of all, what sold me on Suggs as being not just a good NBA player but as an elite player we’re going to be talking about forever happened with 2 minutes left in regulation. That’s when Suggs came from behind and had a MONSTER block on Cody Riley, who is 6’9” and LONG. Riley cut inside and was in the midst of throwing down a monster dunk, when Suggs came from behind and blocked that shit. I mean, he NEUTRALIZED it. Then he not only saved the ball from going out of bounds, he took it up the floor to half court and threaded the needle on a one handed bounce pass to Timme for an easy dunk.
THAT’S the play that made me say to myself, damn, Cade Cunningham better be worried. That was an NBA play if I ever saw one.
A Marcus Smart defensive play, a Chris Paul save, a Lamelo pass -- all in one guy.
And guess what? I wasn’t the only one to see Suggs as a #1 draft pick. According to an anonymous NBA GM, Suggs “possesses a rare combination of special tools: Elite playmaking, lockdown defending and an overall competitiveness that helps transform an entire team’s DNA,"
Exactly what I said on the pod on Monday morning, by the way.
Cunningham has been almost universally projected to be the No. 1 overall pick all season, and played well enough to justify it. He was the Big 12 Player of the Year and a consensus All-American. But he flamed out in the second round of the NCAA tournament, surviving against a tough #13 Liberty and then flaming out against #12 Oregon. His 19.5/4.5/2 under the big lights? Slightly off his regular season stats, but during March Madness, elite players are expected to elevate their game. Suggs 100% did that, despite a fairly flat championship game performance (even though he did put up 22).
I’m not saying Suggs is the #1 pick. But I am saying, he played himself into consideration, because we know guys like Steph Curry who can elevate their game during the brightest moments -- that mindset and mental acumen 100% translates to the next level.
That is something that can’t be taught. If you can elevate during pressure situations? Every team can use you. If you shrink under the bright lights? It’s not insurmountable, but it is a red flag.
With the NBA Draft slated for July 29th, this is definitely something to keep an eye on.
We talked about this and a lot of other subjects on the latest episode of This League. Download, rate, and subscribe, and follow us on at @ThisLeague on all social platforms.