Saying that Knicks’ Jalen Brunson won’t perform well without Luka Doncic is a lazy critique

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks and Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks react against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second quarter at Crypto.com Arena on March 01, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - MARCH 01: Luka Doncic #77 of the Dallas Mavericks and Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks react against the Los Angeles Lakers in the second quarter at Crypto.com Arena on March 01, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) /
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Jalen Brunson was better without Luka Doncic last season. It is an eye-catching collection of words, but it is one that should be shouted from the mountaintops to combat one of the most common critiques in the wake of the New York Knicks signing Brunson to a four-year, $104 million deal.

“Anybody would look good playing alongside Doncic,” is a sentiment that has circulated the internet and on talk shows in the days since the signing.

And while there is truth to the fact that Doncic improves the players around him, it is quickly shown to be a lazy critique when you delve into Brunson’s numbers.

Here’s how Knicks’ Jalen Brunson performed without Luka Doncic in 2021-22

Brunson played 17 regular-season games without Doncic in the 2021-22 season. During those games, he was better in almost every single statistic. He averaged 20.4 points, 7.5 assists, and 3.9 rebounds on 49% shooting from the floor and 35% shooting from three.

That compares to his regular-season line of 16.3 points, 4.8 assists, and 3.9 rebounds on 50% shooting from the field and 37% shooting from three. Brunson’s shooting percentages decreased by the tiniest of margins as his scoring and playmaking output shot up.

Here’s one of those Brunson games without Doncic:

Then there was the playoffs.

Brunson obviously had a fantastic postseason in Dallas’ unexpected run to the Western Conference Finals, but his three games without Doncic were on another level.

In the first round against the Utah Jazz, Brunson put up 24, 41 (a career-high), and 31 points in the three games before Doncic returned from injury.

His scoring output was matched with assist totals that were all higher than his playoff average of 4.2.

Overall, Brunson gave the public a 20-game sample size for what he looks like as the lead guard of a playoff team and showed that he can excel in the role.

While it is understandable that questions have arisen over whether Brunson can function as the primary option/lead guard on a team, people have not given enough credit to the body of work the Villanova product put together in that exact role last season.