Dallas Mavericks: Jalen Brunson taking off since trade deadline
By Tyler Watts
Dallas Mavericks rookie Jalen Brunson was thrust into a larger role after the trade deadline, and he has taken his game to another level.
Dallas Mavericks fans went to sleep on draft night happy. They moved up in the lottery to take their man Luka Doncic. It was a night that had fans excited about the future. Nobody saw the dividends coming so fast and from some surprising sources.
The Mavs did not just draft Luka that evening. They also had three second-round selections. Dallas selected Jalen Brunson, Kostas Antetokounmpo, and Ray Spalding. Brunson is in position to be viewed as the best second-round pick, and his game only seems to improve. Here is a closer look at his season and why fans should be ecstatic about Brunson’s future.
Jalen Brunson was in the Dallas Mavericks opening night rotation, but he was not playing massive minutes. The rookie had just over 19 in his first game. After 14 contests, Brunson was averaging 13.1 minutes per game. Adjusting to the NBA is difficult for any rookie, so adding on inconsistent playing time makes it harder.
The minutes and production continued to be in flux until late January. After 42 games played (and a few DNP-CD’s), Brunson was averaging 16.5 minutes, 6.4 points, 1.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.6 3-pointers made, and 0.5 steal per. He was showing flashes, but they were inconsistent.
Brunson takes advantage
The Mavs season has seen a series of events open up a 30-plus minute per game starting role. First, in mid-January, J.J. Barea suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Losing the franchise legend opened a consistent role as the back-up point guard. Then on Jan. 31, Dallas made the deal for Kristaps Porzingis and in the process traded starting guards Dennis Smith Jr. and Wesley Matthews. A few days later they traded another starter in Harrison Barnes.
All those moves pushed Jalen Brunson from the periphery of the rotation into the starting five. The 22-year-old immediately responded with improved play. Since Jan. 31, Brunson is averaging 11.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 3-pointers made, 0.6 steals, and 2.1 turnovers in 28.3 minutes per game. He has started 14 of those 16 contests and is shooting 45.9 percent from the field, 35.2 percent on 3-pointers, and 75.0 from the foul line.
Things keep getting better for Brunson. He has played over 30 minutes in four of the last six games. That includes three contests with 18-plus points and averaging 4.8 assists over those six.
Fans should not be surprised by any of this. Brunson led Villanova to two national championships in his three years in college. He is also the son of veteran NBA player and coach Rick Brunson. Jalen has been around the game his entire life. Brunson’s high basketball IQ allows him to excel in most situations.
Dallas Mavericks rookie guard Jalen Brunson continues to improve his game as the season progresses. He set his season-high in points on Feb. 27 with 24. Brunson’s arrow is pointing up. The team drafted a gem in the second round.
He should be a key part of the Mavs rotation going forward. Expect Brunson to slot in playing 20 to 25 minutes per game role off the bench when Dallas is contending. He is a capable ball handler and shooter at either guard spot. Fans should be excited about Jalen Brunson going forward.
Expect the Mavericks to struggle down the stretch this season, but there are still plenty of reasons to tune in. Dirk Nowitzki could be playing his final games and fans will not want to miss that. The close to the rookie seasons of Luka Doncic and Brunson are must-see as well. Do not miss it.