The last few years the Los Angeles Lakers have put a major emphasis on the NBA draft.
They have had success drafting in the lottery with players like Julius Randle, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball while also finding talents later in the process like with Larry Nance Jr., Jordan Clarkson, Josh Hart and Kyle Kuzma.
This year the team will try to repeat their success with two picks that are later in the draft, and one guy they could look at is Jalen Brunson, a point guard out of Villanova University.
Brunson looks like an average point guard coming into the draft, measuring at 6 foot 3 inches tall and weighing 199 lbs.
At Villanova, Brunson won two national titles and took home a player of the year award in 2018.
Still, the most impressive things about Brunson are his intangibles. If you do a quick google search on Brunson, you will not find a lot of negative things said about him.
Before the 2018 National Championship game, Michigan coach John Beilein told the Washington Post, “He plays like a guy that’s played forever and just outsmarts everybody.”
When asked if he would rather win a game by hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer or getting a defensive stop, Brunson replied, “I would definitely want to see us get a stop on the defensive end.”
Brunson, like his former Wildcats teammate Josh Hart, is stronger than most guards his size and can be a real nightmare to guard when he posts up his defender.
His coach Jay Wright talked about using Brunson in the post more after he showed this ability during practice.
“We put Jalen in there and everybody, coaches started looking at each other like, wow, his post moves are incredible,” Wright told USA Today “After that, we’re like, we’re going with this, we’re using this. But then as he’s continued to develop, he loves it … and his footwork is incredible.”
For those reasons and others, Brunson is a coach’s dream. He was a top-20 recruit out of high school but didn’t complain when he took a back seat his freshman year with the Wildcats, which helped them win their first national championship since 1985.
During his freshman year, Brunson averaged 9.6 points, 1.8 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 45% from the field, 38% from beyond the arc and 74 % from the free throw line.
The next year he improved in all of those areas, averaging 14.7 points, 2.1 rebounds and 4.1 assists, but his team fell short of winning that coveted NCAA championship.
But, his final year at Villanova, Brunson averaged 18.9 points, 3.1 rebounds and 4.6 assists. He did this on 52.1% shooting from the field, 40.8 % from behind the arc and 80.2 % at the line while finishing the year not only winning the John Wooden award but taking home a national title as well.
Still, when looking at all the different mock drafts, Brunson is seen as a mid-to-low round prospect because of his lack of athleticism and explosion.
When it comes to the player comparisons, you see names like Derek Fisher, Andre Miller and Fred VanVleet.
But if Brunson falls into the Laker’s lap at pick 25, they should still pull the trigger, as he would fit nicely as a backup point guard to develop behind Lonzo Ball, because while Alex Caruso endeared himself to make Laker fans this season, his fit on a good NBA team is most likely as the third point guard on the depth chart.
Another player that got some run at point guard with the Lakers this year was Tyler Ennis, and while just reading his name might make your blood boil, that should speak to why the team has a need at backup point guard.
Lastly, Brunson’s numbers show that he is a shooter, something that is high on the Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka’s priority list. He is committed on the defensive end, and can still switch onto bigger players because of his strength.
Jalen Brunson is not a perfect prospect, but the Lakers would not have a chance to grab him with the 25th overall pick if he was. Still, the front office took many people by surprise when they selected Kyle Kuzma and Larry Nance Jr. at the end of the first round, and those players worked out pretty well for this scouting department.
Brunson is another player that appears to have the attitude and work ethic that Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka crave in players as they try to create a winning culture in Los Angeles, so the team should give him a hard look if he’s still available to them with the No. 25 pick on draft night.