All Hail Jalen Brunson

Jalen BrunsonJulius Randle

The franchise known for striking out in free agency shifted their approach from swinging for the fences to simply getting on base, and the runs have started scoring. 

New York Knicks fans live in a perpetual cycle of disappointment and fruitless hope. First, LeBron James could come save them. Then, the prophetic trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and Zion Williamson. Don’t forget the fleeting dreams of Donovan Mitchell and Karl-Anthony Towns.

Of course, each of those stars chose a separate path, choosing a team with more stars, more potential, and more stability. The Knicks, in turn, pivoted from superstar to complementary piece. They signed Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million deal in hopes that he wouldn’t carry them, but help elevate them. It worked.

Jalen Brunson was the key

As things stand, New York has found themselves hot in the midst of winter. They are 7-3 in their last 10 and sit atop the play-in tournament as the Eastern Conference’s 7th seed. The Knicks are truly in the thick of things, residing at 25-21 after a 10-13 start.

Despite the lack of production from RJ Barrett or the anemic offensive system of Tom Thibodeau, New York has remained potent on offense. They rank 14th in scoring and 8th in Offensive Rating. No team has scored less often off an assist, and 26 teams have a better True Shooting Percentage. They boast the 26th-ranked three-point percentage in basketball.

How have they managed to score in bunches?

The answer is simple: it’s Brunson.

Brunson is a true point guard. His 6.3 assists per game lead the team, but isn’t some astounding number. Still, he handles the primary playmaking responsibilities and can hold his own as a scorer both inside and out. As a result, he’s unlocked Julius Randle.

Randle’s had a rollercoaster of a tenure in the Big Apple, but Knicks fans have learned what to expect. When he’s the primary ball handler, things go bad. When he feels he has to carry the offense, things get worse.

Brunson has taken that burden off of Randle’s shoulders. Last season, Randle was coming off of a year in which he was the lead man of a playoff team, in part thanks to an unsustainable shooting performance. When regression hit and the talent around him wasn’t there to consistently put up points, Randle tumbled; all the way down to a -0.7 WAR, per FiveThirtyEight.

With the ball out of his hands, the efficiency has returned. Halfway through the season, he’s at 3.8 WAR, trailing only Brunson (4.5). Brunson allows Randle to be the recipient of plays without the turnover risks. He gives Randle a kick out option for his drives and another scoring presence in the paint. 

The Knicks paid Brunson to be the steady hand in the lineup, and that’s exactly what they got.

Currently, DraftKings has this New York team to win 42.5 games. The over sits at +105 odds, meaning a $100 bet would win $105. In order to hit that mark, they’ll need to go 18-18 the rest of the way. If you like that line, be sure to use their promotion for Bet Basics readers: BET $5 GET $200 IN BONUS BETS.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that they have the second-most difficult remaining schedule, but with Brunson’s ascendance and a potential trade down the line, there’s finally reason for justified optimism in the Garden.