How Knicks can build around Jalen Brunson, who cemented himself as a centerpiece

Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson / USA TODAY Sports/SNY Treated Image

Though the New York Knicks suffered a disappointing ending to their season with a 4-2 series loss in the second round to the Miami Heat, there were some positives to be taken away from the club’s playoff run.

The number one reason to be hopeful for New York’s future is Jalen Brunson’s performance in the playoffs. The diminutive point guard averaged 27.8 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 11 playoff games.

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Brunson’s ascendance to primary option leads to the next question: How do you build around him? That should be the focus of New York’s front office as the team heads into the 2023 offseason.

In the postseason, the best teams are able to have that star they can consistently rely on to direct an offense and bend opposing defenses.

Brunson was just that, reaching into his bag and scoring in an array of ways with step-back jumpers, fadeaways out of the mid-post and floaters on the drive. Brunson’s game is all about footwork and it’s propelled him into one of the best scoring guards in the NBA.

The only demerit for Brunson was three-pointers. He shot just 32.5 percent from beyond the arc during the playoffs.


In the second round, Miami threw the kitchen sink at Brunson. The Heat’s guards applied full-court pressure on Brunson throughout the entire series and help defenders circled like vultures as Miami loaded up on trying to stop him.

After he dropped 32, 38 and 41 points in the final three games of the series, it was hard not to feel like Brunson needed another co-star to step up. Julius Randle struggled for much of the Miami series, averaging 18.8 points on 41.1 percent from the field. RJ Barrett (20.8 points) shot the ball well enough from outside at 37.8 percent but he had more turnovers than assists.

Going into the offseason, the Knicks will have to reevaluate finding another offensive star capable of scoring efficiently to complement Brunson.

Also, the Knicks need to find a way to score when Brunson isn't on the floor, which seemed like an impossible task as the Heat series wore on.


Throughout the postseason, New York’s offense mustered just 75.7 points per 100 possessions in the 85 minutes Brunson sat through 11 games, per NBA Stats. The team was also outscored by 16.9 points per 100 possessions in that time.

The solution was to just have him play the entire game. In the last three games, Brunson sat for just 6 minutes and 11 seconds total. This included Game 5, when he went the distance.

What the Knicks will need to complement Brunson

New York’s offense overall was rough to watch throughout the playoffs. The Knicks were last in three-point percentage, shooting just 29.2 percent from behind the arc. New York’s inability to space the floor was an issue. In the first round, the Knicks were able to bypass the issue by rebounding nearly all of their misses against an inept Cleveland Cavaliers team.


When they played a Miami team that completely ignored Barrett and Josh Hart and dared them to shoot, it allowed for more help to be given to slowing down Brunson.

The Knicks have to find a way to add more shooting to the roster. Whether it's embracing smaller lineups without a paint-bound center or finding a stretch-four on the trade market, it will be hard for the Knicks to win if they are going to shoot that poorly from outside.

On defense, Brunson was often hidden against weaker offensive players. He guarded non-scoring threat Isaac Okoro often in the first round and was tasked with sticking with Miami Heat shooters Max Strus and Duncan Robinson.

At 6-foot-2, Brunson is limited as a defender. The only true positive is his ability to take charges which he was ranked third in the NBA this season with 27.

It’s important the Knicks still have defenders such as Hart and Quentin Grimes, who are capable of guarding lead ball handlers and elite perimeter scorers. As long as New York can keep the rest of the perimeter in check on defense while having quality defenders in the paint like Mitchell Robinson, Brunson won’t be too much of a liability.