Jalen Brunson has been putting up incredible performances after another since the calendar turned to 2023. His heroics have helped the New York Knicks secure a playoff spot, as they currently sit as the sixth seed in the East with a 33-27 record.
But unfortunately, this tear Brunson is on didn’t result in a spot on the All-Star team. With Anthony Edwards, De’Aaron Fox, and Pascal Siakam selected as injury replacements, we can all say he was the biggest snub for the festivities in Salt Lake City.
To put some evidence behind what was just said, here are his averages for the year: 23.9 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 6.2 assists on 49/42/84 shooting splits (51.2% on 2s and 59.1% TS%) in 35 minutes per game This is a legitimate case that Knicks’ fans can surely use for Brunson’s All-Star argument.
For whom he shall replace, let’s leave it to your picky basketball mind. It’s time to just appreciate what Brunson has done so far this season.
Jalen Brunson’s excellence in attacking the rim
In his time with the Dallas Mavericks, the 26-year-old guard has been known to generate most of his scoring closer to the basket, with last season having the highest percentage of Brunson’s points coming from the two-point area at 75%. It was further unleashed this season, as he is now the primary ball handler for the Knicks.
Per NBA Advanced Stats, Brunson has averaged the second most drives in the league (23.5) while scoring the fourth most points among guards (14.6). The fact that Brunson is one of the elite guards in this category makes it even more impressive, especially when you put an athletic guard like Ja Morant and a bigger guard like Luka Doncic in the same breath as him.
The film from their final game before the break against the Atlanta Hawks showed how easy it was for Brunson to get to the paint and score on multiple occasions. It is also worth noting that the Hawks have the ninth-worst defense, but what should be looked at is the process by which Brunson dissected it.
The first clip showed Brunson’s ability to read the defense. He attacks the vanilla 2-3 zone of the Hawks by rejecting the screen, thus eliminating the help of Onyeka Okongwu, and attacks the gap in the middle for the easy bucket.
Brunson’s frame may lead people to believe that he lacks a quick first step. Here he exemplifies that quick burst in transition against a good defender in DeJounte Murray, using his body to score through contact.
According to InStat, 35.7% of Brunson’s possessions are pick-and-rolls, with him acting as the handler in these situations. For this instance, the Hawks deploy a hedge defense, but just like the aforementioned, Brunson’s ability to outwit defenders by probing and keeping his dribble alive will manufacture a way to score.
The Hawks’ coverage against a Brunson PnR was switched this time. DeAndre Hunter tries to keep the ball in front but fails to do so because of the craftiness of Brunson to once again absorb contact and finish. What he lacks in height is clearly compensated for by a body that can bang with the best of them inside the paint.
More juice in Brunson’s perimeter game
This season, there seems to be a concerted effort by Brunson to extend his range. That’s probably the reason he deserved a spot in the All-Star game and maybe was considered for the Most Improved Player award at the end of the season.
Brunson’s volume from downtown remains suboptimal in comparison to the modern game, but his 4.6 attempts per game are a career-high, with him converting 41.6% of those attempts. Middies were also reduced from 15% to 13.9% of his shot diet last season, which is more than the analytics would suggest.
Even with a higher on-ball responsibility being given to Brunson with the Knicks, his ability to play off-ball remains effective. Peep at this great example, where he shows off an improved movement three coming from a Julius Randle find. Take note: Brunson is shooting 47% from beyond the arc on catch-and-shoots!
It’s time to talk about how good Brunson has been on self-created shots this season. Per InStat, he has shot at a 42.2% clip on isolation threes. Brunson has evolved into that type of shooter where you can’t give him a slither of space or he’ll make you pay by knocking down the long ball. Also in this clip, a great ghost screen by Isiah Hartenstein distracts Royce O’Neale’s defensive stance.
Moving forward in Brunson’s stellar season, his numbers over the last seven games, or should we say since the All-Star reserves were announced, are absurdly good: 31.9 points on 59.7% shooting from the field and a remarkable 50% clip from three (5.7 attempts). During this stretch, the Knicks also have the third-best offense (121.0 offensive rating! ), so it’s thrilling to watch if Brunson and company can keep this up.
Unfortunately, the fine play of Jalen Brunson was not rewarded with a spot in the All-Star squad. Even having said that, it doesn’t mean we can’t appreciate what he has done this season individually for his team.