With the 2018 NBA Draft around the corner and the Portland Trail Blazers holding the 24th selection in the first round, we’re looking at a number of prospects who might fall into that area. Today we check out 2-time NCAA champion, and one of the top players in all of college basketball last year, Jalen Brunson. Jale is the son of former Trail Blazer, Rick Brunson.
Jalen Brunson - Junior, Villanova
- Height: 6’2”
- Weight: 199
- Wingspan: 6’3 1/2”
- Shoots: Left
- Position: PG
- Age: 22
- Projected draft range: Late first - Early second
- PPG: 18.9 | Per 40: 23.8
- RPG: 3.1 | Per 40: 3.8
- APG: 4.6 | Per 40: 5.8
- STL: 0.9 | Per 40: 1.2
- BLK: 0.0 | Per 40: 0.0
- FG%: 52.1
- FT%: 80.2
- 3P%: 40.8 (86/211)
A sophomore season at roughly 19 points and 5 assists on over 54 percent shooting set the bar for the Villanova point guard as high as any players’ in the country. Brunson responded in spectacular fashion. Naismith Player of the Year, Big East Player of the Year, AP Player of the year, NBAC Player of the Year, First team All American, All tournament team, and NCAA champion are a few of the accolades he assembled during the 2017-18 campaign. The only knocks of a consistently successful season were a 5-36 stretch from 3-point land over a 7-game span in February. Plus the one time he failed to hit double figures in scoring happened to be in the national championship game. Other than that his season was elite by every measure.
Jalen Brunson has the intangibles, the leadership qualities, and is a proven winner. Granted, those attributes don't always translate to the NBA but they sure help. He started on a championship team as a freshman and followed up by improving over his next two years, finishing as the player of the year on a national championship team. Work ethic and mental strengths are going to be assets from day one.
Brunson’s most dangerous weapon is his jump shot. He already possesses NBA 3-point range and has a smooth pull up jumper, which he often uses going to his right. His threat as a shooter sets up the rest of his game. His pump fake launches opponents like they were playing Slam ball. When he attacks on the bounce, usually off a shot fake, Brunson’s strong frame and a tight handle keep him under control under pressure or in a crowd. His ability to change speeds helps throw off defenders and allows him space to create or to pull up. For being a guard lacking explosion, he has a good knack for finishing around the basket, although he prefers to finish with the left.
The elephant in the room when discussing Jalen Brunson is his physical make up. His athleticism and wingspan would be near the lower quarter of NBA guards. His instincts and creativity combat those problems to an extent, but that’s a red flag too bright to ignore. At 6’3 his size is good for a guard, but not big enough to make up for his other physical deficiencies.
Brunson has a few other weaknesses , like his refusal to finish in traffic going to his right. He’s not much of a play maker on the defensive side of the ball. Ultimately, the physical limitations are the main concern. His age, 22, doesn't promote potential growth in that department either
Without a first step quick enough to get by an on-ball defender, or the lateral quickness to evolve into a top flight defender himself, Brunson’s ceiling may be not be as high as other prospects at this point in the draft. If he had the athletic gifts, he wouldn't be available to the teams near the end of the first round.
Even with limitations, Brunson has been more successful on the court than anyone else in the draft. (Luka Doncic is still pending.) That matters. He may not be turning heads at the draft combine, but a team that could do worse than a seasoned, smart, skilled, tough point guard with a high floor from their late first-round pick.
Portland already has a backcourt void of defensive potential, making the odds of another generation of Brunsons to Portland even less likely.
That said, Brunson’s shooting would be a welcome asset in Rip City. If Portland doesn't resign Shabazz Napier, they could always swap one ex-NCAA championship point guard for another. Brunson would make sense as a second-round option (the Blazers have no second-round picks, unfortunately) but Portland is more likely to go in a different direction with the number 24 pick.
Would you draft Jalen Brunson? How would you feel if the Blazers did? Let us know in the comments below