Report: Knicks passed up on Jalen Brunson trade for Obi Toppin pick

Mar 9, 2022; Dallas, Texas, USA; Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives to the basket as New York Knicks guard Alec Burks (18) defends during the first quarter at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

This year’s playoffs breakout star, Jalen Brunson, could have been the starting for the New York Knicks now instead of being their primary free-agent target this summer.

But Leon Rose passed up on a Dallas Mavericks deal featuring Brunson in the 2020 NBA Draft. Rose and the Knicks stuck with their guts and went on to use the no. 8 selection on Brooklyn native Obi Toppin.

According to an ESPN report, the Mavericks offered Brunson, the 18th and 31st overall picks, with an eye on Tyrese Haliburton, whom the Knicks also passed up in favor of Toppin. After the Knicks didn’t bite, the Mavericks never found a taker. The Mavericks’ picks — Josh Green (no. 18) and Tyrell Terry (no. 31) — have yet to pan out. Terry is no longer with the team.

Meanwhile, Toppin got buried behind Julius Randle, but he has shown promise with his strong finish to his sophomore year.

Now, Rose has to contend with the Detroit Pistons, who have the cap space to snatch Brunson outright, and the Mavericks, who could go over the cap to retain Brunson to a longer deal.

Rose could only hope that his deep ties with the Brunsons would work in their favor.

Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father, was Rose’s first client when he was starting as an NBA agent. Rose also negotiated Jalen’s unique rookie contract with the Mavericks that paved the way for the younger Brunson to become an unrestricted instead of a restricted free agent this summer.

Sam Rose, Leon’s son, is one of Jalen’s CAA representatives and also part of Toppin’s team.

But although the ties that bound them run deep, Rick Brunson said they would do what’s best for his son, his relationship with Rose be damned. They want to get the most money and the best situation for Jalen to flourish.

“My point is, there are times when you have to make very difficult decisions,” Rick Brunson told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “I’ve made it very clear to Leon, ‘I love you to death. Your son works for Jalen, represents Jalen, but this is about Jalen.’ The one thing about Leon is he knows that. He raised Jalen that way, too.

“It’s about what’s best for Jalen. Leon would never talk to me again. The question I have, is it a good fit in New York? We don’t know because we have to sit down and figure it out [and evaluate the] draft. July 1 is a long way away.”

Rose needs to shed around $20 million in salaries, the expected floor price for Brunson in the open market. A trade involving a combination of Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel could open up the cap space needed to pursue Brunson. The Mavericks are reportedly unwilling to cooperate in a sign-and-trade deal. But that could change as the NBA Draft Day approaches and Jalen decides to have a reunion with Rose and get closer to home in New Jersey.

The Knicks were close to dumping Burks and Noel’s salaries at the trade deadline, but the deal broke down at the 11th hour. Their greediness to squeeze an additional draft capital on top of the Toronto Raptors’ first-round pick this year (20th overall) scuttled the three-team trade that would have also sent Cam Reddish to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Now, Rose could only hope they can kick the tires on a sign-and-trade with the Mavericks or find takers for their bunch of expiring deals to get a second opportunity on Brunson.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo