Jalen Brunson’s magical season continued last night with his first career All-Star nomination, an honor that couldn’t be more well-deserved.
Last night, Jalen Brunson, in the midst of a career year, received his first All-Star nomination, much to the delight of the New York faithful.
It was a very different feeling from last Thursday night when the NBA announced the All-Star starters, from which Knicks fans couldn’t help but notice a glaring omission.
Alas, it’s true that Damian Lillard, now an eight-time All-star, was selected as a starter over Brunson. After learning this, many fans began to debate back and forth on this matter all across social media about whether Brunson was more deserving of the starting spot. And it wasn’t just the fans – the media got in on the debate as well.
"I love [Damian Lillard] as a person and as a player, but I would have loved to see Jalen Brunson be a starter… He made the Knicks relevant for the first time since Patrick Ewing."— ClutchPoints (@ClutchPoints) January 26, 2024
Charles Barkley on Dame starting over Brunson in the All-Star game.pic.twitter.com/9z7Rg7rS1d
But starter or not, Jalen Brunson has proved that he belongs in the All-Star game, with his fellow elite of the elites. Let’s dive into the year he’s had to date.
Jalen Brunson’s 2023-24 season so far
It comes as no secret that Brunson is having a stupendous season. We are talking about a player currently averaging 27.1 points (10th in the league), 6.4 assists, and 3.9 rebounds while shooting 48.1% from the field and 41.7% from beyond the arc.
Not only is Brunson efficient from all over the court, but he shoots with style too. His footwork is impeccable, his confidence is unmatched, and his mid-range shots are unstoppable, not to mention his three-pointers. He is one of the shiftiest players in the league, posting up fearlessly no matter the size in the paint, letting his floaters hang in the air unapologetically, and pulling up from deep with a quick trigger. He is especially well-known for his turnaround jumpers and his bold dribble penetrations in the key.
But it’s not just his scoring ability as a guard that makes him special, but also his combination of craftiness and leadership.
Achiuwa throws the ball away in a big moment. Thibs beside himself. Jalen Brunson immediately tries to calm his coach down and tells Precious it wasn't his fault.— DJ (@DJAceNBA) February 2, 2024
It’s not a stretch to say that this team has clicked better than any Knicks team since 2013. In part, we have Leon Rose to thank for this, whether that be the recent trade or his astute off-season signings. However, at the end of the day, Brunson is still considered to be the glue of this new-beloved team. There is a reason why MVP chants cascade around him during games.
Brunson was selected for his first ASG game earlier tonight then dropped 40 in big Knicks W 🙌— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) February 2, 2024
What a moment pic.twitter.com/NZvTBkRK7j
With Brunson averaging a career-high in three-pointers, he is currently on pace to join nine-time All-star and four-time NBA champion Steph Curry as the only two players to average at least 26 points, six assists, five 3PA, and shoot 41% or above from behind the arc. That’s even more impressive when factoring in the level of self-creation that goes into most of his shot diet.
He is knocking down his threes on an average of 25.6 feet away from the net, the furthest average three-point distance of his career, and currently averaging 6.6 3PA, a career-high, his second-highest being 4.7 last season, per NBA stats. Before coming to New York, Brunson never dared to attempt more than 3.5 3PA per game; thus, it is safe to say that Brunson has made himself quite comfortable in the Big Apple and has honed his skill sets even more nicely. Aside from being a talented player, Brunson is just an overall likable player and expresses heavy humility in any situation no matter what.
A well-deserved All-Star nomination
Despite Brunson being snubbed out of last season’s All-Star nominees while averaging 24.0 points, 6.2 assists, and 3.5 rebounds, he definitely proved his case in front of the NBA, the media, and the fans this season.
Brunson not only keeps his composure during plays, but he is also prolific and level-headed.
A 2 minute lesson in mental fortitude:— Rit Holtzman (@BenRitholtzNBA) February 2, 2024
Smashed in the face. Face swelling up. No call. Lose the lead. Call last timeout.
Doubled over in pain. And then…
Flip the switch.
Engaged in the playcall. Play gets broken up. Get the ball. Get a bucket. And-1.
This is exactly the type of player any coach would want on his team. In addition, he possesses clutch bounce-backs during his gameplay. He is one of two players in the league this season who has recorded at least 50 points and 10 assists during clutch time all while turning the ball over three times or less, per NBA stats.
There is nothing else you would want from a leader and a team player, so yes, Brunson absolutely deserved his first All-Star nomination.
Did Brunson deserve to be an All-star starter instead of a reserve?
The argument between Brunson and Lillard can be daunting, but an inevitable one.
Jalen Brunson loses All-Star G spot to Damian Lillard— New York Basketball (@NBA_NewYork) January 26, 2024
Media voted Jalen Brunson 2nd and Damian Lillard 5th
But overall vote went to Lillard as 2nd All-Star starting guard with Tyrese Haliburton
Vote weight: Media 25%, Players 25%, Fans 50% pic.twitter.com/Lv1eifOL8J
When comparing both players, Brunson averages more points than Lillard and with higher efficiency. However, Lillard excels in categories such as rebounds, assists, and steals per game.
Lillard also helped bring the Milwaukee Bucks to a whopping current record of 32-16, though granted, that’s while playing as the Bucks’ second-best option alongside eight-time All-star and two-time MVP winner, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Brunson doesn’t have that luxury. Brunson is undoubtedly the Knicks’ best player and has put New York on the map for the third seed in the East with a high record of 32-17. This is not to say that the Knicks’ roster is not good enough, but there have definitely been some upsets due to injuries. Julius Randle is currently out for a few weeks due to a right shoulder dislocation and OG Anunoby is out (for three games now) due to an inflammation in his elbow. And that’s besides other huge injuries in the roster, the biggest being Knicks’ center, Mitchell Robinson, who remains to return to the NBA. Thus, one can conclude that Brunson has not been dealt with an easy task to steer New York’s ship into the playoffs.
Jalen Brunson's reaction to not being named an All-Star starter: Congrats to Damian Lillard— Knicks Videos (@sny_knicks) January 26, 2024
Jalen also thanked the media for voting him second 😂 pic.twitter.com/MYRpQeS8m7
What does this mean for Brunson now?
Starter or not, Brunson has officially made a name for himself and carved out a space for himself among the elite players in the league. Given that he has improved every year of his career, there’s no reason to think this honor is a one-time thing. Brunson has proved himself a bonafide playoff performer and regular-season star, and at just 27 years of age, there’s still plenty of room for him to keep rising through the ranks.
For the first time in what feels like forever, the Knicks have their star point guard – and if the world didn’t know it before, they sure do now.