Jalen Brunson, sizzling since his All-Star snub, has Knicks positioned for playoff return

Jalen Brunson insisted that he was not at all offended by his disdain for the All-Star Game. The day after the Eastern reserves were announced, Brunson, always the leader, drew attention to how happy he was for his Knicks teammate Julius Randle, who was named to the All-Star team for the second time in his career. .

“As for myself, I control what I can control and [being named an All-Star is] something I can’t,” Brunson told reporters.

These are all the right things to say. But do we believe him? Back in 2012-13, Stephen Curry famously snubbed his first All-Star appearance. Like Brunson, he didn’t say it bothered him, but he ended that season on a scorcher, which felt like the work of someone with something to prove.

Coincidence? Maybe. But I find it doubtful. Such carelessness in no way adds fuel to the already raging competitive fire of a proud professional athlete.

Eastern Conference All-Star reserves were announced on February 3. The next night, Brunson scored 41 points on 14-of-19 shooting. In total, the Knicks have played seven games since the offense, winning five and surpassing the East’s play-in.

During this time, Brunson scored a league-high 223 points. Do the math, and that’s 32 points per night on 60% shooting, including 50% from three shots, with an assist-to-assist ratio of almost 4 to 1.

And this, to be clear, is not some recent development. Brunson has been great all season. He is one of only two players to have at least 23 points and six rebounds on 41% three-point shooting. The other is Stephen Curry.

Since Jan. 1, only Damian Lillard has scored more than Brunson’s 654, which he registered on over 51 percent shooting, including 47 percent of 3 over five attempts in a game. This season, only De’Aaron Fox has scored more clutch points than Brunson, who hit 50 percent of his shots when the game was within five points with five minutes or less left in the game.

“I love his modesty,” Tom Thibodeau said of Brunson. “He knows how good he is. He doesn’t need other people to tell him about it.”

Indeed, Thibodeau and the Knicks know who their best player is. The question is, do these “other people” really know how good Brunson is? The All-Star snub suggests no.

Watching the Knicks potentially make it into the top six this season and thinking that Randle – no disrespect – has more to do with their success than Brunson, is hard to imagine. Brunson has changed this entire team that can win 45 games, eight more than last year.

To put this jump into perspective, the Cleveland Cavaliers could win nine more games than they did last season. Donovan Mitchell was rightly called the changed variable in that equation, and as a result, he ended up on the sidelines of the MVP debate. Brunson doesn’t have the same year as Mitchell, but he’s not far off.

Speaking of massive jumps, the Knicks, who ranked 21st in offensive efficiency last season, are in sixth place this year according to Clearing Glass, scoring almost seven points more (110.7 vs. 117.2). for 100 holdings. With Brunson on the floor, that rating reaches 119.6 points per 100, which puts him in first place in the league.

When the Knicks finish the All-Star break (Friday night against the Wizards), they’ll be tied with the No. 7 Hit in the losing column. Both teams are three games behind the #5 seed and three games behind the #8 seed. There’s a good chance the Knicks and Heat will be in a head-to-head battle for the 6-7 seed – one will secure a playoff spot and the other will have to go through the play-in the rest of the way, with three games. on the left and New York with a 1-0 head-to-head advantage.

All things considered, this is an amazing place for the Knicks, who have only made the playoffs once in the last 10 seasons but are really starting to build something. They have eight tradeable draft picks and a franchise player in Brunson who, if we know anything from his successful college career and four-plus years in the league, is going to continue to play as the point guy. prove.


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