Jalen Brunson Scouting Report

CONTEXT

  • Jalen Brunson was the 16th-ranked prospect in the 2015 high school class[1].
  • He was also the most valuable player of the 2015 FIBA World Championships U19.
  • Through the first 15 games this season, the six-foot-three lead guard has averaged 25.4 points per 40 minutes on 70% true shooting.
  • Brunson is a veteran who has 91 appearances under his belt in college and another 12 for the United States youth squads in FIBA tournaments[2]. As such, the 21-year-old[3] is a savvy point guard who knows how to control the pace of the game, regularly finding the right mix between passing ahead to speed up the tempo and walking it up to run half-court offense.
  • Villanova moves the ball side-to-side early in possessions but that’s usually useless motion. More often than not it falls on Brunson’s shoulders the task of breaking down a set defense midway through the shot clock. The junior has posted 24.6% usage-rate and assisted on 30.5% of Villanova’s scores over his 458 minutes this season[4].
  • Brunson does most of his work in middle high pick-and-roll and in isolation off ball reversals but he is also fond of taking his man into the post and backing him down, as Villanova inverts the offense quite a bit thanks to the presence of stretch five Omari Spellman.
  • Defensively, Brunson is strong for someone his height and plays with a lot of toughness. Villanova switches aggressively on all screens in large part because it feels comfortable with its point guard putting up a challenge against bigger players, and so far it hasn’t been disappointed. Having said that, he lacks the athletic ability and elite measurements to be a net positive on that end.
  • Despite his impressive résumé, he wasn’t ranked on ESPN’s top 100 as of December, 12th.

SHOT CREATION

  • Brunson is a very resourceful ball handler. He lacks a quick first step and explosiveness to blow by his man on speed[5] but can get by his man in isolation and generate a good look off the pick-and-roll thanks to a fairly diverse arsenal of dribble moves:
    • In-and-out dribble to shift directions;
    • Stop-and-start quickness;
    • Stop-and-pop pull-ups;
    • Crossover into pull-ups;
    • Hang dribble into pull-ups;
    • Dribble in pull-ups off the ball screen with range out of the college three-point line.
      • 15 of his 34 three-point makes this season have been unassisted[6].
    • Brunson is not one of those genius passers who can anticipate passing lanes a split-second before they come open but he has good court vision and has proven himself a reliable shot creator for others off the bounce, not only able to make a kick-out and a drop-off pass against the defense collapsing to him but also pass across his body to the opposite end of the court.
    • He’s sure handed as well, turning it over on just 8.8% of his possessions this season – which is almost beyond belief for someone with his high usage and assist rates.
    • Brunson uses the strength in his 200-pound frame to take his man into the post in a way you don’t see guards do a whole lot these days and has a combination of power moves and shot fakes that you don’t see in the vast majority of this generation’s big men.

SHOOTING & FINISHING

  • Brunson is not a super dynamic pull-up shooter at the Trae Young-level but has developed into a very good shot maker.
    • He’s nailed 59.3% of his 54 two-point jumpers this season. That sort of efficiency is obviously absurd but it’s not too far off the shooter Brunson truly is, as he nailed 48.5% of his 97 such looks a year ago.
  • Off the ball, he is not yet one of those gunners who can make shots on the move but has proven himself an above average open shot set shooter – nailing 40.6% of his 308 three-point shots over his time at Villanova, including 49.3% of his 69 such shots this season, at a pace of six attempts per 40 minutes.
  • Thanks to his strength maintaining his balance and his momentum forward through contact, Brunson is taking 30.9% of his shots at the rim and averaging 5.5 foul shots per 40 minutes – which are good numbers for someone without elite athleticism like him.
    • He is not an explosive leaper off one foot, doesn’t have much length[7] to over-extend himself around rim protectors and is yet to show much flexibility adjusting his body in the air to finish reverses in traffic but is an ambidextrous finisher with nice touch on speed layups – converting his 55 shots at the basket at a 70.9% clip this season.
  • Brunson ranks second in the country in offensive rating.

DEFENSE

  • He bends his knees to get down in a stance and plays tenacious post defense on the ball – averaging 1.2 steals per 40 minutes this season, but doesn’t use his strength to contain dribble penetration regularly.
  • Brunson looks to go over picks and works his way back to his man well enough to contest elbow jumpers but doesn’t really get skinny navigating the screen to beat his man to the spot with particularly impressive quickness and lacks length to make a real impact contesting these shots.
  • He’s also not very quick chasing opponents around screens on the side of the floor and lacks length to closeout effectively.
  • Brunson is strong enough to pick up bigger players on switches and put up a challenge one-on-one. It’s not any big who will back him down for an easy look within close range. However, he lacks length and leaping ability to make many plays as the last line of defense close to the goal, other than drawing the eventual charge here and there.
  • Brunson is a good rebounder for a point guard – collecting 10.3% of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor this season.
  • He has the second worst defensive rating on the team among rotation players[8].

[1] According to ESPN.com

[2] According to Real GM

[3] DOB: 8/31/1996

[4] According to sports-reference

[5] Which has proven to be an issue when big men have switched onto him, as he’s struggled to burn them for it

[6] According to hoop-math

[7] Six-foot-three wingspan, according to Draft Express

[8] According to sports-reference

READ MORE: Quade Green | Collin Sexton | Cassius Winston

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara

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