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Has Jalen Brunson established himself as the backup point guard in Dallas?

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It’s time for a breakout junior season.

Utah Jazz v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Season in Review

On February 2nd, Jalen Brunson suffered a torn labrum against the Atlanta Hawks just 12 seconds into the game. It’s not the kind of injury that’s caused by lack of conditioning or overuse, but just a freak accident. When the season went on hiatus, Brunson had surgery that ended his season regardless of how deep the Mavericks went into the playoffs. But before his injury, he had secured his spot in the rotation.

Brunson averaged 17.9 minutes per game. In those minutes, he averaged 8.2 points per game and 3.3 assists per game. Brunson’s stats resembled those of a backup. In 77.2 percent of his games, he had four assists or less. He also had single-digit scoring in 63.2 percent of his games.

The surprising thing about Brunson’s season was the polarizing difference in his scoring. When he wanted to score inside the arc, he did so on drives. Of his made two-point field goals, 76.1 percent of them were unassisted. But when he scored behind the arc, his numbers made him look more like a wing rather than a point guard. This season, 81.4 percent of his made three-pointers were assisted. This is a little discouraging because it means Brunson struggles to create offense for himself from range. He shot 41.2 percent on pull-up jump shots, and 23.5 percent on pull-up threes.

Best Game

Undoubtedly, Brunson’s best game came against Atlanta the first time when he scored a season-high 27 points. He made 12-of-22 shots that game and also had eight assists to just one turnover.

Contract Status

Next season, Brunson will enter the third year of his 4-years/$6.1 million rookie deal. Drafted with the 33rd overall pick in 2018, Brunson is extremely cheap, which may be...

Looking Ahead

...the reason he remains on the team.

I enjoy Brunson’s game. I think there are flashes that prove he can be a reliable backup guard in this league. I’m just skeptical of that role with Dallas. This season, the Mavericks offensive rating fell four points per 100 possessions when Doncic left the court. A large part of that is a lack of offense being generated by Brunson.

The back-up point guard position is one I think the Mavericks could look to upgrade this off-season. With how cheap Brunson is, I think that secures his spot on the roster. The Mavericks would likely rather use that cap space elsewhere. Assuming he’s back on the roster next year, I’d like to see him really hone in to one aspect of his game. It doesn’t matter which one: shooting, passing, driving, pick-and-roll, you name it. But Brunson has to find one way to make the offense remain explosive with Doncic off the floor. The two of them were on the court together for just 6.3 minutes per game last season. If the Mavericks want commit to him as the backup point guard of the future, I’d like to see him have just one reliable, consistent weapon.