COVID-19 has completely ravaged the NBA, with the number of players and coaches entering health and safety protocols about to approach 300. The Dallas Mavericks are one of the teams that has received the worst end of the stick. Multiple Mavs players went into protocols throughout December, including superstar Luka Doncic. The Slovenian has since made his return, along with the likes of Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, and Maxi Kleber. And just when the Mavericks thought they were in the clear, their other star Kristaps Porzingis entered protocols.

It's clear this pandemic is far from done and will continue to affect the league throughout the year. Nonetheless, one Maverick has luckily made it unscathed amidst the chaos and has stepped up to the plate for Dallas this season. That man is none other than Jalen Brunson.

Mavericks Hero Jalen Brunson

As mentioned, Brunson has gone untouched by COVID this season and has appeared in nearly all of Dallas' games this 2021-22 season. And when Luka Doncic went down with COVID for 10 straight games, the lefty point guard stepped up big time to help keep the Mavericks afloat without their star guard. In those 10 games, all starts, Brunson averaged 21.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.4 assists, and shot 51.3 percent from the field.

That's a huge bump from his averages of 14.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists through the first 24 games of the season, where he started just one-fourth of the games. While he did provide a great spark off the Dallas bench, Brunson did more than enough to convince Jason Kidd to hand him the full-time starting job. The first-year Mavericks head coach has committed to roll with a Brunson-Doncic starting backcourt for the foreseeable future.

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Dallas is having a disappointing season thus far. Obviously, COVID and injuries have played a huge part in that. Things certainly could be much worse considering they missed so many guys, especially Doncic, for such a long stretch. Nonetheless, for the most part, this season still looks encouraging considering what the individual parts have done throughout the year. Prior to this COVID setback, Kristaps Porzingis is having a strong campaign and is looking more like the All-Star that played for the Knicks a few years back.

As for Brunson, this is looking like a breakout campaign for the former Villanova Wildcat. He has been improving in each of his four seasons in the NBA and is on pace to have a career year. And in some games in that 10-game run without Doncic, Brunson even flashed some star potential.

Aside from Doncic and Porzingis, the Mavericks are still in search for that reliable third option that can give them consistent and efficient scoring. Furthermore, Dallas has also been looking for another playmaker and ballhandler who could ease the load off Doncic. Mavs Nation has clamored for their team to acquire someone like Goran Dragic. But Jalen Brunson is proving that he can be that guy.

Luka Doncic and Kristaps Porzingis can only take this Mavericks team so far. Mavs fans certainly hope Jalen Brunson continues his ascension as he will key for Dallas' success throughout the season.