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Why Jalen Brunson fell to second round in 2018 NBA Draft


There’s no question about it: Jalen Brunson is a star.

Brunson proved to have star potential in his first season with the Knicks. In his second season, he emerged as an MVP candidate. He was among the league leaders in scoring with 28.7 points per game and led New York to 50 wins for the first time in a decade.

If you’re not familiar with Brunson’s journey, you might be surprised to hear that he wasn’t one of the top picks in his draft. In fact, he wasn’t even a first-round pick. Concerns about how his game would translate from college to the pros saw him fall to the third pick in the second round.

Why did Brunson fall in the draft and who was selected ahead of him?

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Following three years at Villanova, where he averaged 14.4 points and 3.7 assists per game, the Mavericks selected Brunson with the No. 33 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft.

We graded the pick a B+ at the time, with TSN’s draft expert Chris Stone calling it a “solid selection” for Dallas.

Brunson has decent size at 6-2 and 190 pounds, but his 6-4 wingspan was seen as below average for his position. His athleticism was also a concern. After his freshman season at Villanova, DraftExpress wrote that Brunson “won’t blow anyone away with his quickness or explosiveness, even at the college level.”

The biggest question for Brunson came on the other end of the court. His size was again seen as a weak point, as he’d be limited to defending one position in the NBA. Even then, it remained to be seen how he’d match up with players like Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, Russell Westbrook, and Kyrie Irving.

“Brunson projects as a player who can only defend one position, the point guard position, and it is not 100 percent clear that Brunson would be successful defending starting NBA point guards,” wrote

For the most part, Brunson was projected to be a backup point guard in the NBA. Bleacher Report compared him to one-time All-Star Jameer Nelson and Andre Miller, who had a 17-year career.

Brunson was a backup for three seasons. He was moved into the starting lineup in 2021-22 and played a key role in the Mavericks making the Western Conference Finals in 2022, setting him up for a $104 million contract with the Knicks that was questioned at the time but is now a bargain.

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32 players heard their name called before Brunson in the 2018 NBA Draft. The list includes a couple of superstars, as well as a few players who barely played in the NBA.

In 2023, Steph Noh and I redrafted the 2018 NBA Draft. Brunson went sixth behind Doncic, Gilgeous-Alexander, Young, Jackson and Bridges.

A year later, Brunson has a case to go as high as third.

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