New York Knicks’ free-agent target Jalen Brunson wants to get paid this summer. His Game 2 performance only raised his stocks to an all-time high.
Brunson dominated the Utah Jazz backcourt of Mike Conley and Knicks trade target Donovan Mitchell with a career-high 41-point masterclass as the Dallas Mavericks tied the series after a 110-102 win in Game 2 Monday night.
Brunson repeatedly pierced through the heart of Utah’s defense, forcing Jazz center Rudy Gobert to retreat to the paint, leaving them vulnerable from the outside. Dallas hit a playoff record 22 three-pointers and beat Utah in the same fashion the Los Angeles Clippers did in last year’s playoffs.
Brunson became the fifth Mavericks player to have a 40-point playoff game, joining Luka Doncic, Dirk Nowitzki, Rolando Blackman, and Nick Van Exel. He was the first player to do that without committing a turnover. His ultra-efficient game included making 15 of 25 shots, six of 10 from deep, and 5 of 7 free throws. He was a game-high plus-15 while adding eight rebounds, five assists, and two steals in 41 minutes.
“The telltale is we can’t have Brunson have the night he had and also be able to kick the ball out for those looks,” Utah coach Quin Snyder said. “And when those passes are kicked out, I thought we weren’t as sharp mentally in our ability to rotate. And that’s something that we’ve done before.”
Brunson is the type of point guard that Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau would love to have — smart, competitive, and makes winning plays.
He loves contact.
He could post up and attack the rim at ease while possessing a solid midrange and outside game. Over the last two seasons, he’s hovered above the 90th percentile in shots at the rim and short midrange, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s also been lethal in corner threes, ranking at the 95th percentile last season and 90th percentile this season.
His career game was just the icing on a remarkable contract season.
“He’s going to make a lot of money,” Dallas coach Jason Kidd said after Brunson carried them without Doncic.
“I don’t know if he needs an agent, but I’m going to put my name in the hat. It’s not just what he did tonight, and it’s not what he’s going to do going forward. He’s already done the work this season.”
Brunson reportedly would seek around $80 million over four years.
— Bobby Marks (@BobbyMarks42) April 19, 2022
The Mavericks hold his Bird rights. But it’s an open secret that the Knicks covet him that they even sent a recruiting team to watch him and Mitchell in the series opener over the weekend.
“He’s shown he deserves to be paid, and he does his job at a very high level, and he’s a winner,” Kidd said.
The Knicks would need to open up cap space (unload Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel’s contracts) or persuade the Mavericks to a sign-and-trade (could be either Mitchell Robinson or Dallas native Julius Randle).
Brunson, a second-round pick in the draft class that yielded Doncic and Trae Young, has a throwback game that belies his 6-foot-1 frame.
He is a power point guard who could post up and attack the rim at ease while possessing a solid midrange and outside game. Over the last two seasons, he’s hovered above the 90th percentile in shots at the rim and short midrange, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s also been lethal in corner threes, ranking at the 95th percentile last season and 90th percentile this season.
He could be the Knicks point guard who is a constant threat, can penetrate and spray out the ball efficiently and consistently that incoming third-year guard Immanuel Quickley would like to become. Brunson’s size, though, could be a problem on the defensive end since Thibodeau wants to employ big guards (case in point: Burks eventually winning the starting job over Kemba Walker). But make no mistake, Brunson is stronger than he appears to be.
What makes him more likable is he’s a team player. He thrived playing alongside Doncic and has flourished as the primary facilitator without him.
Brunson’s explosion came on the heels of a 25-point performance in Game 1 but in a loss where he missed 16 shots.
“Most importantly, I think in Game 1, I missed a lot of shots that I normally make, so I wasn’t trying to go away from that necessarily,” Brunson said. “I think the biggest takeaway from Game 1 was just kind of staying with it, staying patient, and just playing my game.”
“I didn’t have to change too much besides just slowing down and just concentrating a little more and just continuing to play hard for as long as I was out there.”
Brunson says the right things and makes the right plays. What else does he need to do to prove he’s worth near Fred Van Vleet’s money?
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