Most Improved Player candidate praises New York Knicks star Jalen Brunson

Jalen Brunson dropped 45 points in the win over the Bulls.
New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson
New York Knicks, Jalen Brunson / Michael Reaves/GettyImages

Was there anyone who thought that Jalen Brunson wasn't going to go off in Chicago on Tuesday, especially after the Bulls beat the New York Knicks on Friday? He was on fire, finishing with 45 points on 13-of-24 shooting from the field. It marked the 10th time this season he's scored 40+ points, the third-highest mark in franchise history.

Chicago has All-Defensive player Alex Caruso, who primarily guarded Brunson on Tuesday. Even he couldn't do enough to contain Brunson as the Knicks moved up to No. 2 in the East after the 128-117 win.

Coby White, a top candidate for the Most Improved Player of the Year award, gave Brunson an NSFW compliment. White also explained why Brunson is as good as he is, especially off-ball (subscription required).

"A lot of guys of his stature that always have the ball, for him to be able to relocate and move without the ball it just shows his high IQ for the game,” Bulls guard Coby White said. “He gets himself easy opportunities, like catch-and-shoot 3s."

Coby White, via The Athletic

Coby White says Knicks PG Jalen Brunson has "high IQ for the game"

Brunson and the Knicks have had over two months to adjust to Randle's injury. The All-Star forward commanded attention on the offensive end, but now, defenses have focused more on Brunson. As White noted, that's caused Brunson to operate more without the ball.

"Brunson is running around 25.3 off-ball screens per 100 possessions in the 33 games since the Randle injury, compared to just 7.1 in the 46 before it, according to information tracked by Second Spectrum. He’s navigating 13.7 dribble handoffs per 100 post-Randle injury, nearly doubling his previous average of 8.4."

Fred Katz, via The Athletic

Since Randle's been out, Brunson's averaging 31.1 points, 7.1 assists, and 3.2 rebounds per game. On the season, he's averaging a career-high 28.4 points on 47.8% shooting from the field and 39.9% from three. Somehow, he isn't considered a top-10 MVP candidate, even though he's kept the Knicks at the top of the East amid several injuries.

Just because Randle's out doesn't mean New York won't make it to the Eastern Conference Finals, which was their ceiling with a healthy squad. Brunson's reinvented his game. Who knows what kind of tear he'll be on when the playoffs start?

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