With the third pick in the second round the Mavericks selected Jalen Brunson. This move perplexed many Mavs fans because Brunson is another point guard. Of the 20 players on the Mavericks preseason roster, six are guards under 6’4” and four of them will likely make the final roster.
Ultimately, Brunson’s role is a long-term replacement for J.J. Barea —but Barea is coming off a career year. Unless this preseason hamstring injury is nagging, Brunson isn’t likely to see much time on the court early in the season.
As a three-year starter at Villanova, Jalen Brunson started 115 of 116 games, won two national championships, and won the Wooden Award for the best collegiate player in his final season. Over those seasons Brunson shot 51 percent from the field, 39 percent from three, and 82 percent from the stripe.
Villanova boasted an extremely stout offense, so most of Brunson’s looks were fairly open. This most recent team had three first round picks in Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, and Omari Spellman.
Still, Brunson is a solid shooter and a good facilitator. Having a year to learn how to be an NBA point guard under Barea and Devin Harris will benefit Brunson greatly his rookie season.
The biggest question for Jalen Brunson this year is how many minutes will he get? It’s hard to imagine Brunson getting time early in the season. Even though he’s a polished player, Barea and Harris have such a firm grip on the bench guard spots.
If he could start to take over Devin Harris’ minutes towards the end of the season that would be promising for the Mavericks’ future. Though Rick Carlisle is notoriously stingy with rookie minutes, often preferring his veteran players, if the season goes south early and the Mavericks look to be out of contention, look for Brunson to get more minutes and more of a chance to prove himself.
Best case scenario
For Jalen Brunson, the best case scenario isn’t anything flashy. As noted above, Brunson taking over for Devin Harris and putting up solid numbers off the bench would be a best case scenario for him this year. However, also as noted above, Brunson taking over Harris’ minutes likely means the Mavericks aren’t in playoff contention. So, unfortunately, what’s best for Brunson this year may not be best for the team as a whole.
But given the chance, and despite his summer league numbers, Brunson may already be a better shooter than Harris. If he can come in and immediately shoot around 35-36 percent, Brunson would be a nice boost to the bench unit.
Worst case scenario
The worst case scenario for Jalen Brunson would be if his shooting woes from Summer League and the preseason continue. In five Summer League games, Brunson shot 23 percent from the field.
Most rookies take a bit of time to adjust to the length of the NBA three-pointer. Look no further than Maxi Kleber last season. In Eurocup the two seasons before coming to the NBA, Kleber shot 41.3 percent on 58 attempts. Last year he shot just 31.3 percent from deep in his first NBA season.
Rick Carlisle loves having multiple playmakers on the floor, especially in his bench unit, and Devin Harris is closer to retirement than he is to his prime. Having a player ready to take over that role is important for the team’s longer term plans.
Jalen Brunson’s rookie year will be an important one for the future of the Mavericks bench unit. It won’t get the level of attention as other rookies, but Brunson’s role with the team moving forward will be a crucial one if he performs like Dallas expects.