Jalen Brunson has led an injury-riddled Knicks team to a top record and posted incredible performances. He must receive MVP votes for his wonderful season. 

43 points, eight assists, six rebounds, one turnover, a win.  

45 points, eight assists, three rebounds, one turnover, a win. 

39 points, four assists, two rebounds, two turnovers, a win. 

30 points, 11 assists, one steal, one rebound, a win. 

40 points, eight rebounds, seven assists, four turnovers, a win.  

If you can read any of these stat lines and say to yourself, “This is not an elite, MVP-caliber player making the most valuable impact on their team that led to five straight wins to close out the season,” you are being purposefully obtuse. 

These were the numbers for Jalen Brunson in the month of April. His production garnered him Player of the Week honors for the last week of regular-season play as the New York Knicks lock in for postseason basketball set to begin this Saturday. 

Because of Brunson, New York isn’t being subjected to a one-game play-in battle with either the Philadelphia 76ers or the Miami Heat. Instead, they controlled their destiny and secured a No. 2 seed and a 50-win season, their first in 23 years. Now, they have home-court advantage in the first and second rounds of the postseason, ensuring that New York City will experience multiple additional earthquakes in the coming weeks with origins traced back to 7th Avenue and 34th Street. 

Those who watch Knicks games even casually see the impact Brunson has had on this team. He’s humble, a trait bolstered by recent reports that he does not care about the money aspect of any potential extension with the Knicks. He’s crafty, often losing defenders in the paint with ease despite being head and shoulders smaller than many of the defenders tailing him in that area.

He is exactly what he advertised himself to be when arriving in New York back in 2022. He told MSG Network’s Bill Pidto during his introductory press conference that he wished to “christen some memories” at the Garden during his tenure with the club. 

That he has in just two short years, helping lead the Knicks to the postseason in his first two years, now with a chance to truly lead the team as its top scorer and top dog through a gauntlet of opponents to try and compete with (presumably) the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

And, I have to say, I cannot think of another player in the NBA who has had the same impact on their team that Brunson has with this particular Knicks squad. 

Before going back and comparing him to winners of the MVP in the past, it’s important to look at who is currently in the conversation for the award now alongside Brunson. Nikola Jokic, who is likely a lock for his third honors, has again been a force with the already-forceful Denver Nuggets, who look primed for another run through the Western Conference and a potential second title. He can systematically pick many defenses apart despite his seemingly slow speed and he almost always guarantees the Nuggets a win when he is on the floor. 

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the next player typically mentioned as the runner-up for this award this season. The young guard has helped lead a young Oklahoma City Thunder team to the No. 1 seed in the west. He’s silky smooth on the floor, making you think that even an off-balanced shot from him will go through the cup. 

Luka Doncic is then typically the third player folks may mention on the ladder of MVP candidates. He has made circus shot after circus shot for the Dallas Mavericks this season — typical Luka Magic — but he has additionally helped to lift his team up despite injuries and chemistry struggles. Similarly to Brunson, he managed to stay mostly healthy and aid in keeping the Mavs afloat. 

Beyond these three superstar talents, I cannot for the life of me understand how Brunson is not fourth or fifth on many lists and ladders featured by the NBA or other media outlets.

The Brunson Burner’s numbers speak for themselves, we know this. But consider that this team lost Julius Randle in January, OG Anunoby for February and most of March and Mitchell Robinson from November until March due to an ankle injury. Brunson managed to not only help chug the team through the east and get the second seed but he unlocked other teammates’ strengths in the process, lightening the load they took on after those injuries forced them into huge minutes. Players like Donte DiVincenzo, Josh Hart, Deuce McBride and Isaiah Hartenstein were thrust into starting roles and. supported by Brunson and his play directly.

Can you say the same for Jayson Tatum, one piece of a five-headed monster that is the Celtics’ starting lineup? Or even the same for players like Domantas Sabonis, who somehow still sits ahead of Brunson in MVP ladders despite featuring on a disappointing Sacramento Kings team? How about Kevin Durant and Devin Booker, who confusingly sat ahead of Brunson for multiple weeks in the MVP standings despite both having an up-and-down year with the Phoenix Suns who barely made it out of the play-in tournament?

I’m not trying to discredit those stars to lift Brunson up. But at the same time, that’s sort of what those making these lists do to Brunson, no? They uplift other names, saying they are more consistent players that are clearly more dominant, more impactful, more valuable

Jalen Brunson is the definition of most valuable. Without him, this team is a play-in team at best and another collapsing Knicks team at worst. He will not win the accolade, likely to go to Jokic yet again and deservedly so. But it is such a disservice to pretend like this 6-foot-2 second-round pick that is touching an average of 29 points per game and acting as the leader of one of two 50+ win teams in the East does not need to be in the top five of any MVP list floating around. 

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