Josh Hart may be all the rage these days in the Big Apple and Julius Randle’s All-Star resurgence has been a sight to behold, too, but as the New York Knicks go for their eighth-straight win against the Miami Heat on Friday, Jalen Brunson continues to captain the ship.
Since arriving in NYC, the 26-year-old has been nothing short of the best Knicks floor general since, well… Mark Jackson some 30-plus years ago? In any case, as good as Brunson has been this season, he has arguably played the best ball of his career over the last month or so.
In games contested during the month of February, the Knicks’ starting point guard averaged 27.3 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds per game while shooting 52.9% from the field overall and 42.6% three-point range. Meanwhile, New York logged a 9-2 record over that stretch.
Brunson was so good, in fact, that the league recognized him as the Player of the Month in the Eastern Conference. For his part, though, Hall of Famer Charles Barkley took things a step further during a rant on TNT’s Inside the NBA on Thursday.
Charles Barkley Drops Truth Bomb on Knicks’ Jalen Brunson Signing
Ahead of Thursday’s bout between Brunson’s former team, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Philadelphia 76ers, Barkley held court on the baller’s incredible season, labeling him one of the greatest free-agent additions since free agency was a thing.
“We didn’t even know Jaylen Brunson could do that until Luka [Doncic] got hurt,” Barkley said. “Nobody thought… I want to say this, and I told you this a few months ago. Jalen Brunson is arguably the best — not talking about KD, LeBron free agents, [but] Jalen Brunson is probably one of the best free-agent pick-ups in NBA history…”
Sir Charles received significant pushback on that statement from in-studio cohorts Shaquille O’Neal and Kenny Smith, but the Dream Teamer continued to sing Brunson’s praises nonetheless.
“I’m just telling you — what he’s done this year is historical.”
Brunson’s signing was famously panned by multiple outlets and pundits; CBS Sports famously gave the Knicks a D+ grade for the move. And given the fact that he was signed for $104 million over four years, there was definitely some sticker shock there. But Barkley wasn’t letting anyone off the hook for having those takes.
“We didn’t know Jalen Brunson was this good of a player; nobody thought that. Everybody thought, going into the season, he got overpaid and when did he shine? When Luka got hurt — that’s when he shined, in the playoffs. Going into last season, during the regular season, nobody said Jalen Brunson is going to be a big-time free agent. But when Luka got hurt, he showed what he can do.”
Knicks Continue to Climb Power Rankings
Their recent streak notwithstanding, the Knicks have been playing at an elite level for a hot minute now. Over their last 41 contests entering the Heat game, the team ranks third league-wide in offensive rating (118.5), seventh in defensive rating (112.6) and second in net rating (5.9).
People are starting to take note, too. In the latest NBA power rankings from Bleacher Report, the Knicks entered the countdown in the No. 8 spot. Wrote B/R’s Andy Bailey:
The New York Knicks’ seasonlong numbers are good. They’re in the top 10 of the league in both winning percentage and net rating. And although Julius Randle was their lone All-Star, he and Jalen Brunson are both playing at an All-Star level.
But even those indicators may not tell us exactly how good the Knicks are.