Jalen Brunson is leaving the Dallas Mavericks for the New York Knicks. Well, eventually. But before he does, I wanted to break down his play one more time.
As I’ve mentioned before, I am a nerd for footwork in basketball. And Brunson is a gold mine for footwork and fakes. He’s not athletic, and doesn’t have above average size. But he does have an arsenal of old man basketball moves that help him get open. This makes him a menace in the paint, despite his lack of height.
I could post a hundred plays here, because at least once per game Brunson would bust out some hesitation-pivot-pump-fake-drop-step combo and get a bucket. But we don’t have the space for it. Our guy Panda Hank has a couple highlight videos put together, one of which is below:
I chose three of my favorite Brunson plays from the end of the year—two from the opening round against the Utah Jazz, and one from a late regular season matchup with the Detroit Pistons. They don’t come close to demonstrating the variety of moves in his bag, but they’re the ones that left me smiling in the moment.
In this first clip, Brunson sets a screen, then pops out to the 3-point line where he receives a pass from Luka Doncic. Killian Hayes runs out to contest, and Brunson gets him in the air with a pump fake, then drives. He’s met by Cade Cunningham at the rim. Brunson stops, almost on a dime, then pump fakes again. Cunningham bites, and with Hayes on his hip, Brunson steps through and hits an easy layup. No elite athleticism needed—just a couple of simple pump fakes and a step through lead to a basket in the paint.
In this next clip, Brunson uses a series of quick moves to get up an efficient shot in the lane. He receives a dribble handoff coming off a screen, which gets him into the lane easily. From there, he gets Hassan Whiteside backpedaling, then hits him with a step-back and pump fakes. Whiteside bites, and Brunson steps through for a floater. But Whiteside stays connected. No matter. Brunson gives him a little bump, then hits a little fadeaway jumper. Looks so easy, but takes an impressive combo of moves.
This last clip is a masterpiece. Brunson hits Royce O’Neal with a five piece combo that’s a beauty. He starts with a hesitation to his left, then crosses over, spins, pivots, then steps through for a wide open layup. It all happens within a couple seconds, against a good defender in O’Neal. It’s the kind of thing that makes basketball fans swoon.
Brunson will only add to repertoire as his career progresses. It’ll be fun to see, and unfortunately for Mavericks fans, it’ll be in New York with the Knicks. But it was a treat to watch here in Dallas while we could, and we’ll get to see him twice a year going forward.