Jalen Brunson Should be Player of the Year: Making a Case

Trae Young has been doing things we have not seen in college basketball. If the season ended today he would lead the country in points and assists. No one in college basketball has done this for a whole season. Young’s play this year in college basketball has been very similar to the MVP campaign Russell Westbrook had last season in the NBA. They both put up numbers that very few before them have, but also used a high volume of shots at times to do so. There are some great games, an there are some sloppy games. Young’s year is not quite as Jekyll & Hyde was Westbrook’s was, but there is some inconsistency.

There’s no doubt what Young is doing is special. His freshman counterparts Marvin Bagley and DeAndre Ayton are having extraordinary seasons themselves, but half the country has no idea just how good they have been because they don’t compare to some of the things Young has done. A month ago most people would say the gap between Young and second place for Player of the Year was extremely large. They probably would have been right. Fast forward and that gap is much closer than many think. Here’s why Villanova’s Jalen Brunson deserves consideration for Player of the Year.

Making The Case

From first glance, Brunson’s numbers don’t compete with Young’s at all. He’s averaging 19 points to Young’s 29, 5 assists to Young’s 9, and one less rebound per game. As Stephen A. Smith would say….HOWEVER, Brunson is a more efficient and smarter player. That’s not entirely fair to Young since he is two years younger than Brunson. Brunson has a turnover-assist ratio of 5.0 to 1.5. The most he’s turned the ball over in a game this year is three times.Young has a T/A ratio of 9.3-5.3.  And while Young has had a crazy 22 assist game, he’s also has a 12 turnover game against Kansas State.

Young’s points per game are so much higher than Brunson’s because he shoots a high volume of shots every night, and that’s okay. Oklahoma is built differently from Villanova, they need Young to do that in order to win. Yong averages 19.5 shots a game. This is not including the 39 he took against Oklahoma State, or the 9 against Kansas. Those two games are extreme outliers to his typical shot output. Brunson has only eclipsed 20+ shots twice. Again, the Wildcats don’t need him to do that in order to be the best team in America.

In games where he’s gotten a majority of shots (15+), Brunson is averaging 26 points per game, seven higher than his season average. In those games, he shot 57% from the floor. Is it likely he would sustain that percentage over a whole season if he got as many shots as Young does? Doubtful. But he’s still shooting 56% from the floor on the season and 48% from three, compared to Young’s 45% and 39% respectively. Whether he’s shooting 20 times or 7 times, Brunson has shot it well.

Lastly, you can’t discount the fact that Villanova is the #1 team in the country. This should not be the deciding factor obviously, since not all teams are created equal. But if players can be penalized in these awards for putting up great numbers on bad teams, why shouldn’t they be rewarded for putting up good numbers on great teams. Brunson’s numbers are good. Any team would take 19 points, 5 assists and just 1.5 turnovers a game from their starting point guard. Villanova is a great team; they are rolling through everyone they play, including nationally ranked and NCAA tournament bound teams. Brunson is the most important piece to that success.

The Player of the Year voting comes down to if you think a great player on a good team should win, or if a good player on a great team should win. Jalen Brunson is very, very good. He’s not as viral as Trae Young has been, and so it seems like he is flying under the radar. Villanova is rolling through the Big East, a strong Big East, again, and he is a big reason why. He may not have the crazy numbers and single game performances that Young has had on the surface, but a closer look shows that this race is, and should be, closer than many think.

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