The majority of the mock drafts were wrong, but it worked out just fine for Jalen Suggs.
Most analysts had the former Gonzaga point guard going to Toronto but the Raptors threw a wrinkle into Thursday’s NBA Draft by taking Florida State’s Scottie Barnes with the fourth pick. Suggs waited a few minutes longer before hugging family members after being selected by Orlando at No. 5.
He’s the second-highest pick in GU history behind Adam Morrison, who went third to Charlotte in 2006.
Suggs has always embraced competition and there will be plenty of it on an Orlando guard line that includes 2020 first round picks Cole Anthony and R.J. Hampton and former Washington Husky Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 pick in the 2017 draft.
“I know the expectations I set on myself and those are always the highest,” Suggs said. “So going in there and achieving what I set out for myself, I know if I do that it’ll meet their standards as well. Super excited to be going to work with a great group of guards in Cole and R.J. and a great group of people.”
A short time later, Washington selected Corey Kispert at 15th overall, reuniting the 6-foot-7 wing with former Gonzaga teammate Rui Hachimura.
It’s just the second time Gonzaga has had a pair of first-round picks. The first was Hachimura (No. 9 to Washington) and Brandon Clarke (No. 21 to Memphis) in the 2019 draft.
“Rui’s my guy,” Kispert said. “I’ve spent a lot of really good time playing with Rui and developing a friendship with him. To be able to spend a little bit more time with him and play with him professionally is really, really cool.”
Filip Petrusev, who played two seasons at Gonzaga before returning to his native Serbia to begin his pro career last year, was selected in the second round by Philadelphia with the 50th pick, marking the first time Gonzaga has had three players taken in one draft.
Petrusev put up big numbers for Mega Basket and showed improved shooting range.
Orlando, 21-51 last season, is rebuilding after dealing veterans Nikola Vucevic (24.5 points), Evan Fournier (19.7) and Aaron Gordon (14.6) before the trade deadline. The Magic hired first-time head coach Jamahl Mosley, who was an assistant at Dallas the previous seven seasons.
In addition to Suggs, they drafted Franz Wagner with the eighth pick. He joins older brother Mo Wagner on a roster packed with interesting younger players.
Asked how he’ll handle the transition after playing for a Gonzaga team that finished 31-1 last season, Suggs said, “With open arms and enthusiasm and energy, bringing in the vibes that I bring and the leadership that I bring and my work ethic and potential. I’m looking to bring that into the whole team, elevate everybody. They’ll make me better and help me learn.”
Suggs said he’ll bring “whatever is asked, whatever is needed” to win.
Thursday was a big day for Suggs, USA women’s gymnast Sunisa Lee and their hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. Suggs said he’s good friends with Lee and was watching on television when she won gold in the all-around at the Olympics.
“I texted her immediately and I sent the videos because I was tuned in,” Suggs said.
Rookie contracts are slotted so Suggs is projected to make about $11.6 million with the first two seasons guaranteed.
“He is a special talent, special kid and we talk about those qualities he has … toughness, grit, defensive-minded and just not afraid of the moment,” Mosley told the Orlando Sentinel. “And I think, with these young NBA players, you’re looking for them to have that.”
Kispert, whose table in the green room at Barclays Center was just behind Suggs’ table, was barely outside the lottery (top 14), but he still moved up considerably by opting to return for his senior season. He was projected as a second-round selection following his junior year.
“So much hard work especially last year, a lot of resilience, trying to see the big picture when the immediate was so tough,” said Kispert, who is in line to make roughly $6 million in his first two seasons. “Every single day and every single time I was in the gym is all worth it now.”
The Wizards are building around All-Star Bradley Beal and Hachimura. They revamped their roster on draft day, sending Russell Westbrook to the Los Angeles Lakers for Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. They also acquired guard Aaron Holiday.
“Having a guy like (Beal) who is so elite with the ball in his hands, I can create driving lanes for him,” Kispert said. “I can move pieces around and play off of him and make plays when he doesn’t or can’t.”
Joel Ayayi wasn’t drafted, but the versatile guard has agreed to a two-way contract with the Los Angeles Lakers, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
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