Which NBA player would you pick to win a playoff series? To start a franchise? Jalen Brunson makes both lists

Jalen Brunson is a bulldozer. He busts through ceilings.

From dismissed to overpaid to overlooked, he became, without much debate, the best guard in the Eastern Conference this season (don’t tell me Donovan Mitchell or Damian Lillard).

In my recollection — and, to be clear, my living knowledge of the league only goes back to the 1980s — there has only been one story like this in the NBA — a second-round pick and lead guard who turned from a role player to a star after his fourth season. The other player is Isaiah Thomas, the guy from the Celtics, not the Pistons.

Thomas’ stardom was cut short because of injury and, let’s face it, fluke meeting reality. We’ll see what happens with Brunson, but he’s already surpassed Thomas’ career and has been steadily rising since being drafted 33rd in 2018.

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