Team USA doesn’t have its usual firepower for the upcoming FIBA World Cup later this month, but it has a solid share of rising talent. Among those is New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson.

Brunson is coming off a strong first year with the Knicks. He was notably swayed away from the Dallas Mavericks in the 2022 off-season courtesy of a huge four-year, $104 million contract, and delivered on his price, bringing excitement back in New York’s rabid basketball fanbase.

The 26-year-old finished his 2022-23 campaign posting career-highs 24.0 points and 6.2 assists per game, which helped lift the Knicks into a 47-35 record and a return into the postseason. They then continued making noise as they won their first-round match-up with the favoured Cleveland Cavaliers, earning the franchise’s first playoff series win since 2013.

Note that the Cavs were the league’s best defensive team for pretty much the whole season, and they simply dispatched them in five games. It makes it fun to anticipate how much it helped them progress for next year.

All that brought more attention to Brunson, his massive improvement, and potential to be even better, so much so that he was basically an easy choice for Team USA.

The group is parading a young core, with the oldest being 27-year-old Bobby Portis, so someone like Brunson, who’s a no non-sense, playmaking point guard that’s been building a ton of confidence, is an awesome fit for such a roster. Anthony Edwards is slated to have the share of highlights and scoring, but he’ll have the ears and overall facilitation.

Such was also evident in a recent statement from head coach Steve Kerr. 

As this stoic floor general, the leadership expectation is almost an automatic. It has probably been more evident now than ever since Team USA now has more than a month together. A recent statement from head coach Steve Kerr indicates it too:

“I think Jalen is such a natural leader … because he’s a point guard, he immediately comes to mind. He’s the one who’s leading the ‘1, 2, 3 USA’ chant. Some guys just, it just comes naturally to them.”

The talent around Brunson is a big help as well. Aside from Edwards flexing his athleticism and scoring prowess and Portis bringing size and stretching the floor, there’s Tyrese Haliburton, Brandon Ingram, Mikal Bridges, and Jaren Jackson Jr., among others. That bunch brings a lot to the table, making it easier for the point guard to do his array of duties. It’s an embarrassment of riches as Jalen can choose multiple options on just about every area, and he’ll most probably look good either way – not that they won’t encounter serious challenges. It’ll be fun since he’s already a very good decision-maker.

Bound to get better

Because he’s inserted into an important role and a confidence-inducing stage, the expectation for Brunson is to showcase further progression in his game and strut a different kind of swag come October, especially since many eye him as the real Knicks main man and leader, and not All-Star Julius Randle. It’s a good level of pressure, but whichever way he goes will be telling as to what he’s really made of. He’s in New York, and there’s a bigger, stronger hype, so he needs to bring it.