Jalen Brunson has bought stability to the New York Knicks like nobody has over the past couple of decades, and that includes Carmelo Anthony. Brunson is the best Knicks point guard since Mark Jackson ran the show between 1987-1992.
The Knicks are 33-27 and sit in sixth place in the eastern conference, only two games back of fifth place. They are seventh in aNET rating, sixth in aORTG, and 16th in aDRTG.
Brunson is a big reason why.
He’s averaging 23.9 points and 6.2 assists per game on efficient 48/41/83 shooting splits. He is the Knicks’ go-to player down the stretch.
Brunson is in the 96th percentile in offensive EPM, ahead of players like Giannis Antetokounmpo, Trae Young, Jimmy Butler, and Paul George.
He’s small and can be targeted on the defensive end. But he’s not lazy on that end of the floor.
His head coach Tom Thibodeau, not one for effusive praise, thinks Brunson is an All-Star.
“It’s pretty obvious to all of us [that Brunson is an All-Star] because we see him every night. The unfortunate part of the All-Star thing is there’s not enough spots, so inevitably someone deserving gets left off,” Thibodeau said. “In my eyes, he’s an All-Star.”
Remarking on a big scoring game against the Indiana Pacers in January, Thibodeau believes Brunson can get to another level.
“When you look at clutch points, I think he’s third in the league. He plays with poise. He’s going to make big shots. He’s going to make big plays. He shoots a high percentage from the floor, over 50 percent, the same thing from three, the same thing from the line. I think there’s a whole other level he can go.”
It’s more than his on-court play
Since Jackson, the Knicks have had point guards like Raymond Felton, Jose Calderon, Tony Douglas, Chris Duhon, Chris Childs, Derek Harper, Jeremy Lin, and, yes, Stephon Marbury. Just to name a few.
While Marbury certainly had the better pedigree and offensive talent, he wasn’t the leader and connecter that Brunson clearly is.
“He’s a team-first guy. He’s always about all the right things,” Thibodeau said. “The way he practices, the way he is in meetings, who he is as a person, I think that stuff’s invaluable to a team. I’ve always been a big believer in the best leadership you can have are the things that you do each and every day.
“So you can tell what’s important to him. Just watch him. He’s not one of those rah-rah beat-my-chest type of guys. He’s all about the team, he’s all about winning, he’s all about work, he’s all about unselfishness . . . He’s the ultimate pro, got a great feel for everything. Nothing throws him off.”
Thibodeau is practically gushing.
When Brunson signed his four-year, $104 million contract with the Knicks last summer, many people scoffed and said it was an overpay.
He’s not an elite All-NBA player, but Brunson is a borderline All-Star and a huge reason why the Knicks are poised to make the playoffs for just the second time in the past 10 seasons.