Jalen Brunson is somewhat of an enigmatic player in today’s NBA. He is undersized for any position at 6’1, he’s not remarkably athletic, and he seems to be a rather quiet and humble guy. By this description, he comes off as rather unremarkable until you watch him play.
Over the course of the 2022 NBA Playoffs, Brunson has blossomed into the borderline All-Star caliber player that he hasn’t really been able to display at this point in his short career. Averaging 23.5 points per game through 10 games so far, he is outscoring the likes of Jaylen Brown, Bam Adebayo, Trae Young, Kyrie Irving, and Jrue Holiday during this postseason.
You might think this is impressive -- because funny enough it is! I am a massive agenda pusher, and sometimes I will admit to being wrong. Look no further than the likes of Luka Samanic and Jaron Blossomgame to see that I am not always right when it comes to players I should invest time into. Brunson is not one of those instances.
Brunson helped rally the Mavs to two wins out of three games in their series against the Utah Jazz while missing their star and perennial top 10 player Luka Doncic. Over that span, Brunson averaged 32 points, five rebounds, and five assists per game. That's pretty stark considering his season averages weren’t nearly as high, though still fairly respectable at 16, four, and five.
With the amount of grit he’s shown coupled with the fact that he can take over the reins of an underwhelming roster in the playoffs, this leads me to my conclusion: The San Antonio Spurs would seriously benefit from a player like Brunson.
Why Jalen Brunson would work on the Spurs
One of the Spurs' biggest issues is consistency at the guard position. This doesn’t really stem from Dejounte Murray as much as it does from the reserves. For a team absolutely stacked with guards, the Spurs are lacking top-end talent that can fill in some of the offensive holes and lack of playmaking that seems to appear when Dejounte sits on the bench or is having an off night.
Cue Brunson. He has shown his ability to step up in these big moments, and he has proven his prowess as not only an electric scorer when he finds his rhythm, but he also is no slouch on the playmaking side of the ball. He comes off as the perfect complementary guard to somebody like Dejounte who honestly needed help all season in the backcourt.
Lonnie Walker was incredibly streaky on offense, Derrick White had too many minor issues to count that all added up to a disappointing season before being traded to the Celtics, and Tre Jones is a bit too one-dimensional on offense to pick up scoring slack when needed.
There are still some issues to address
Brunson does come with some question marks such as if this success is sustainable, how switchable he can be on defense at his meager size, and if he’s even worth the price tag. Rumors are he could command $20 million annually from teams looking to shop for him, and that does seem a bit steep for a very talented yet not completely proven guard of his size in the modern NBA.
By all accounts, he seems to be of great value for the skillset he brings. Would I rush to snag him on day one of free agency? It really just depends. The Spurs have bigger needs at different positions that could be filled by the likes of Zach Lavine and Deandre Ayton who would command most of the Spurs' vast cap space this offseason.
I see these as much more important holes to fill than an undersized guard, but if they were to strike out on those two, Brunson presents himself as a very fulfilling consolation prize for the 2022 offseason.