The Dallas Mavericks need a secondary ball-handler to take the load off of Luka Doncic. That was the consensus after the 2021 playoffs, and the expectation was that the Mavs would be in the market for a veteran like Kyle Lowry or Goran Dragic to fill that void.
Dallas missed out on both, but through the first 11 games of the 2021-2022 season, the Mavericks seem to have figured out the issue.
Jalen Brunson has gotten off to a tremendous start so far. He has taken over the role of the team's secondary ball-handler. JB has lifted some of the responsibility off of Luka's shoulders, and even without Doncic playing his best ball, Brunson has helped keep the Mavericks winning games.
Why Jalen Brunson can be the Dallas Mavericks secondary ball handler
I have been a big fan of JB ever since his days at Villanova. I always felt that he played the game at his own pace and had a high-level IQ. When the Mavs got him in the draft, I was happy and figured he would be an excellent addition.
These same reasons I was a fan of Brunson at Villanova are the same reasons I love Brunson as the secondary ball-handler now. Because of Brunson's incredibly high IQ, he rarely turns the ball over as he has a career average of only 1.2 turnovers per game. He runs the second unit exceptional, and because of him, the Mavericks have had one of the better benches so far this season.
Brunson's poise and heady play also make him extremely valuable in the clutch. Under Rick Carlisle, JB was not on the court with Luka too much, and when he was, he was often relegated to just being a shooter. But in Jason Kidd's system, Brunson has finished games next to Luka and been a monster at the end of close games.
He took over late against the Spurs and single-handedly beat them with 13 points in the fourth quarter. Brunson seems to be comfortable taking big shots, and I think a lot of that has to do with his three years of being the primary decision-maker at Villanova.
I have grown to appreciate how good JB is in the paint. For being so undersized, he still manages to impose his will in post-ups, and he's become one of the more effective drivers and finishers in basketball. The way he uses his body in the post reminds me of what Deron Williams used to do back in the day where he would punish a lot of weaker guards, and it has become a fundamental tool for JB.
As a driver, JB shares the same quality as Luka as their heads are always looking to make the right pass to a shooter or cutter. Brunson also excels in the mid-range, which we've seen can be paramount at the end of games where easy buckets and open threes are difficult to create.
Brunson is in a contract year, and I would love for the Dallas Mavericks to bring him back. His performance this season proves he can be the secondary ball-handler the team needs.
Although it's early, JB has placed himself as a Sixth man of the Year candidate and helped the Mavericks win games, despite poor shooting and subpar offensive play all around. Expect him to continue improving too.