In the ever-changing landscape of the NBA, second-unit players seldom share the spotlight with their superstar teammates. Without any sign of resentment, Jalen Brunson defies the "dog-eat-dog world" mentality by showcasing pure professionalism. Luka Doncic and Brunson, although playing the same position, exist in a cohesive ecosystem.
During his three seasons at Villanova, Brunson won two National Championships and earned a prestigious Naismith Award honor in 2018. In short, Brunson learned to win, notably as the focal point before he donned an NBA jersey.
Despite his storied history at Villanova, the NBA didn't seem to care. Since being selected 33rd overall in 2018, Brunson cozied into his role as the backup guard for the Dallas Mavericks. In a contract year, the noise of "I want more minutes" or "I deserve to start" typically echoes through the rumor mill. However, to Brunson's credit, no such comments surfaced from the Mavericks' chaotic summer.
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As the season approaches, securing the services of such a selfless player bodes well for a team itching for depth. Brunson is eligible for a rookie extension, and the fact that he hasn't shown any signs of fatigue from coming off the bench is an excellent sign for the Mavericks.
Withstanding an adverse season where Brunson missed games due to COVID protocols, the backup guard produced 12.6 points per contest, a career-high average. In addition to his improved points average, Brunson finished second-best on the roster in true shooting, with a 61 percent mark.
However, despite producing a career-high season, the backup guard has plenty of room for improvement. Firstly, handling the ball isn't Brunson's strong suit. The fourth-year guard tends to pick up his dribble prematurely. Also, Brunson's court vision must improve if he wants an extended role.
Expectations for Jalen Brunson
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Without going full clairvoyant, sporting a Mavs' blue-colored crystal ball, Brunson's season doesn't require a drastic change in approach. Regarding his fit with Doncic, Brunson can function in the same lineups as his superstar teammate while upholding the team's efficiency. According to Basketball Reference, in 732 minutes played together, the pair recorded a +5.1 points per 100 possessions.
For Brunson to achieve more, he must extend on his success while sharing the court with Doncic. It's not rocket science to see most players benefit from the two-time NBA All-Star. However, if Brunson managed to improve his play from a play-making standpoint, he could become the second ball-handler the Mavericks desperately need.
When it comes to driving the ball downhill, Brunson excels. However, when facing teams such as the Los Angeles Clippers, where long wings dominate the lineup, the bulldog-built point guard struggled to stay afloat. Conversely, evidence leans in Brunson's favor, if he maintains consistency in his drives to the rim.
Considering the lack of legitimate depth from the point guard position, Brunson's placement on the bench remains imperative to the Mavericks' progress. Don't expect the 6-1, 190-pound guard to cement himself as a starter as it will throw off the secondary lineups.
In light of Brunson's professional outlook on the game of basketball, an enhancement to his game is imminent. Whether he upgrades his dribble game or polishes up defensively, a change is coming.
Brunson's head-down, heart-up attitude represents the blue-collar attitude of a second-round pick. Work ethic remains key to Brunson's story. With that said, reality is perception. Brunson's participation in training camp must follow with an upgrade to his game, not just nice quotes.
Botton line: While maintaining the top spot off the bench, expect Brunson to improve on his ball-handling attributes.