Knicks’ extension for star point guard could be an absolute steal

NBA: Playoffs-Indiana Pacers at New York Knicks, jalen brunson
Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

When it comes to extending star point guard Jalen Brunson, the New York Knicks shouldn’t hesitate for a second. Brunson is entering what will likely be the last year of his four-year, $104 million deal. Technically, it’s his third year, but he has a player option for the 2025–26 season at about $25 million, which is well below his market value.

This contract situation presents a golden opportunity for the Knicks to secure him with an extension that will seem undervalued in a few years. The NBA is on the verge of signing a transformative media rights deal that will significantly increase player contracts.

However, Brunson’s extension would be capped at a 40% increase over his current contract, amounting to a maximum of $43 million annually over four years.

It’s important to note that other players are earning over $50 million annually and proveding less value than Brunson, which gives the Knicks considerable financial flexibility for future roster building.

May 8, 2024; New York, New York, USA; New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) celebrates in the fourth quarter  after scoring against the Indiana Pacers during game two of the second round for the 2024 NBA playoffs at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Brunson’s Impact and the Knicks’ Decisions

Stefan Bondy of the New York Post mentioned that Brunson’s new contract would max out at four years, $156.5 million, averaging $39 million per season, which is still below what he’s worth.

Brunson, who will be 28 this summer, is coming off his best season yet. In 77 games, he averaged 28.7 points and 6.7 assists, with a shooting line of .479 from the field and .401 from three-point range, achieving a .543 effective field goal percentage. He ranked fifth in MVP voting and earned a second-team all-NBA nod.

However, what truly underscored Brunson’s value was his playoff performance. Despite a sore right foot and a fractured hand in the final game against the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference semifinals, he averaged 32.4 points and 7.5 assists per game.

Brunson’s impact is reminiscent of Carmelo Anthony’s time with the Knicks, though many would argue that Brunson has had a more significant effect due to his ability to facilitate for others without dominating the ball. Unlike Melo, who was an isolation-heavy scorer, Brunson can integrate into the team’s structure, creating opportunities for his teammates.

The Knicks also need to maintain financial flexibility to keep key players like Isaiah Hartenstein and OG Anunoby.

The big question remains: Will Brunson opt out of his player option in 2025 to pursue a larger contract in free agency? If he chooses this path, he could potentially increase his total earnings by $100 million, representing a substantial financial gain but also a significant risk. Should he suffer an injury or a dip in performance next year, his market value could decrease. Locking in $165 million now is certainly a compelling option and one he will likely consider this offseason.

Ultimately, it will be interesting to see how Brunson balances the development of the Knicks’ roster with his personal financial goals, a decision that would be understandable whichever way he leans.

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