9. Jalen Brunson
Few players have exceeded expectations like the New York Knicks' Jalen Brunson. A player many felt was a bit too long in the tooth to have this high of a ceiling, Brunson plugged away, steadily improving every season since his rookie year. Now, in his age 27 season, he's once again taken a step forward.
Brunson has made a concerted effort to be more perimeter-focused as a shooter, increasing his three-point rate from .269 last season to .367 this year. Not only has the rate increased, but so has his efficiency from deep. After hitting from deep at a 41.6 percent clip last season, Brunson has increased that to 47.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Thanks to Brunson's efforts, the Knicks are currently fifth in the Eastern Conference but well within striking distance of moving up multiple spots rather quickly. Former NBA sharpshooter JJ Redick, who is also Brunson's former short-term teammate, held a segment on a recent episode of his podcast, The Old Man and the Three, where he and former player-turned-analyst Tim Legler gave Brunson his flowers for vastly exceeding expectations.
This season, Brunson has easily played at an All-Star caliber. If he's able to keep up anything close to this level of production, he should certainly be celebrating his first All-Star appearance in February.
His co-star Julius Randle gets a lot of the national press, both in a positive and negative sense, but without a doubt, Jalen Brunson has been the Knicks' Most Valuable Player. As the Knicks continue to fight through the daunting Eastern Conference, Jalen Brunson continues to lead them on their journey to their first NBA championship in 50 years.