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Knicks Rumors: Jalen Brunson Has HC Thibodeau 'Ecstatic'; Feels He Can Be a B+ Player

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVAugust 21, 2022

Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images

Count New York Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau among those who are excited about the team's decision to add guard Jalen Brunson in free agency.

According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, "the Knicks coach is ecstatic about Brunson's arrival. He thinks he can turn Brunson from "a B-minus player to a B-plus player." The key is teaching him to become a sharper defender despite being undersized."

The Dallas Mavericks chose not to match New York's four-year, $104 million offer for Brunson, clearing the way for him to sign in the Big Apple.

The 25-year-old is coming off the best season of his career that saw him average 16.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 50.2 percent from the field and 37.3 percent from deep.

While Brunson was overshadowed by Luka Dončić in Dallas, he still proved capable of running the offense as a ball-handler or finding openings away from the ball.

That was never more evident than when his stock ascended in the playoffs.

Brunson averaged 27.8 points per game during Dallas' first-round victory over the Utah Jazz and dropped 41 points in Game 2 with Dončić sidelined by injury. He also had 24 points and six rebounds in the Game 7 win over the Phoenix Suns in the second round and poured in 31 points during Game 2 of the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors.

Whether he can build on those performances all while improving his defense after opponents shot 1.6 percent better than their normal averages when he defended them last season, per NBA.com, will determine his ceiling in New York.

Thibodeau has always been known as a defensive coach, and he is apparently looking forward to the chance to work with his team's newest guard.

He reportedly also wants another high-profile guard on the roster.

According to Berman, "Thibodeau is still keenly interested" in New York trading for Jazz star Donovan Mitchell even though some within the organization are concerned such a move wouldn't elevate the team's ceiling enough to justify giving up so many assets.

A Brunson and Mitchell backcourt may not be enough to bring a championship to New York, but it would likely help the team reach the playoffs for just the second time since the 2012-13 campaign.

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