Despite missing a potential game-winner on Martin Luther King Day’s loss to the Toronto Raptors, New York Knicks rising point guard Jalen Brunson is still one of the best clutch players this season.
Brunson ranked fifth in the first NBA.com’s Clutch Player Ladder that will keep tabs on the candidates for the newest individual award — Clutch Player of the Year — named after the Hall of Fame guard and Los Angeles Lakers legend Jerry West.
The 26-year-old Brunson, who has stabilized the Knicks backcourt this season, is trailing Sacramento’s De’Aaron Fox, his former teammate with Dallas Mavericks, Luka Doncic, last season’s Mr. 4th Quarter, Chicago Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan and his almost-teammate, Cleveland Cavaliers’ Donovan Mitchell.
While Brunson had his fair share of missed free throws and shots in the clutch this season, he’s been mostly sharp and efficient when the pressure and stakes are higher.
The two-time NCAA champion is building his case for the award with 99 total clutch points, tied with Fox, against only three turnovers in over 96.2 minutes. He ranks third in average clutch points (4.7) behind DeRozan (5.2) and Fox (5.0). He’s only missed six of 34 free throw attempts in the clutch.
“He doesn’t pass the ball often, which can be considered a flaw until you realize he does shoot 52.4% overall and 50% from deep in the clutch. The Knicks will take that success rate all the time.”Shaun Powell via NBA.com
Brunson has only issued eight assists, but that’s still three more than Fox’s total in the clutch.
“He plays with poise. He’s going to make big shots. He’s going to make big plays. He shoots a high percentage from the floor, over 50%, the same thing from three, the same thing from the line. I think there’s a whole other level he can go.”Tom Thibodeau during Knicks-Pacers postgame last week
His chemistry with his new teammates is still a work in progress. But at times, he’s shown the willingness to pass in the clutch, like when he set up Cam Reddish for the overtime-sending 3 in Memphis during their season-opener.
Brunson is just starting to scratch his potential. It’s safe to say the $104 million, four-year contract and the second-round pick docked by the NBA for tampering were all worth it for the Knicks.
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