21. Jalen Brunson
Brunson was a second-round steal for Dallas. He helped Villanova win two NCAA championships in three years, but scouts knocked his size and defensive ability, which forced him to slip outside the top 30.
The Mavericks traded up to third overall to get Luka Doncic before selecting Brunson 33rd overall. Dallas had Dennis Smith Jr., but they were not sold on him being their point guard long-term. The franchise also knew J.J. Barea was reaching the end of his career. The Mavs completely revamped their ball-handling situation in one night.
Brunson immediately cracked the rotation, and he just kept getting better. He spent two years as the primary backup point guard before expanding his role in year three and becoming a starter in year four. Brunson was virtually played off the floor in the 2021 playoffs by the Clippers before being the team’s second-most important player in their 2022 run to the conference finals.
The Mavericks’ front office made a massive mistake in structuring JB’s contract that allowed him to become an unrestricted free agent after his fourth year. They failed to ink him to an extension before he hit the open market, and Brunson decided to join the New York Knicks in free agency. It left the Dallas Mavericks with zero return, but Jalen Brunson went from second-round draft pick to backup point guard to starter to star over his four years with the franchise.