The New York Knicks have been as streaky as they come this season.
The Knicks won eight consecutive games before going on a five-game losing streak to close December on a sour note. Since then, they have recovered with their current three-game winning run to improve their record to 21-18 which puts them in sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
While New York has been up-and-down this season as they try to establish their identity, Jalen Brunson has emerged as the most consistent player for head coach Tom Thibodeau. The Knicks’ major offseason acquisition has averaged 20.3 points, 1.5 three-pointers, 6.5 assists, and one steal–all career-highs–along with 3.2 rebounds and two turnovers per game so far this season.
Brunson has been unfazed by the responsibilities that come with being the primary perimeter threat for this team. He has failed to score in double digits just twice in 35 outings, yet made up for it with a total of 18 assists in those two contests. Furthermore, he already owns six 30-point games this season after hitting that mark only three times prior to his move to New York.
The 26-year-old Brunson’s latest 30-point game came in the Knicks’ most recent win over the tanking San Antonio Spurs. New York hosted the Spurs and came away with a 117-114 victory that was closer than it should have been.
The stage was set for disaster and last year’s Knicks would have faltered. However, Brunson made all the difference as he willed New York to the finish line. The 6’1 guard scored or assisted on 15 consecutive points for the Knicks over a seven-minute stretch late in the fourth quarter to help keep San Antonio at bay.
The 33rd overall pick of the 2018 NBA Draft wound up with a regular season career-high 38 points and also had seven rebounds and six assists to complete his all-around line. He was a +14 on an evening where no other New York player registered a double digit +/-.
These kinds of gutsy performances from Brunson have revitalized the Knicks’ notoriously passionate fanbase and inevitably ramped up discussions on whether he deserves a spot in this year’s NBA All-Star game. Based on his statistics and impact alone, he has a solid case, yet the competition in the East will not make it easy for him.
Among Eastern Conference guards, Donovan Mitchell and Jaylen Brown figure to be locks given their early season impact and the success of their respective teams. This means that Brunson will have to compete with Jrue Holiday, Darius Garland, Tyrese Haliburton, and Kyrie Irving for the two remaining guard slots and the pair of wild card berths. Each of them has done enough to merit inclusion in this year’s team, so Brunson will have to separate himself from the pack over these next few weeks.
If New York can extend this current three-game winning streak that they are on, then Brunson will have no problem at all. The Knicks are slowly finding their groove and the recent absence of RJ Barrett has seemingly helped them as it gives them one less ball dominant mouth to feed on offense.
The frenzy that comes with winning in a die-hard market such as New York should be enough to propel Brunson to his debut NBA All-Star appearance. His inspired play has earned him a loyal following and it might only be a matter of time before he reaches the elusive cult hero status that only a few Knicks have achieved in recent years.