Despite having no cap space, the New York Knicks are rumored to be the biggest threat to pry away this playoffs breakout star Jalen Brunson from the Dallas Mavericks.
Brunson averaged 27.8 points, including a 41-point masterpiece in Game 2, 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists in the Mavericks’ first-round win over the other Knicks target Donovan Mitchell and his Utah Jazz.
Brunson’s biggest appeal is his ability to thrive on and off the ball. He has improved playing alongside Luka Doncic and showed he could take over when the Mavericks’ star is out.
All the dots connect to Brunson moving back to the East Coast near his birthplace (New Brunswick, New Jersey) after spending his first four years in the NBA in Texas. Some of the top Knicks decision-makers, led by executive vice president William Wesley and their star forward Julius Randle, were front and center during the series opener in a show of force.
Despite the Knicks’ overtures, the Mavericks are fully expecting Brunson to remain with the team beyond this season, according to Dallas-based NBA insider Marc Stein.
“Behind the scenes, though, team officials are expressing clear confidence that they will re-sign Jalen Brunson in the offseason. Detroit and Indiana are two teams with considerable cap space known to have an interest in signing Brunson this summer. New York’s interest has also been well-chronicled, even though the Knicks will have to make some moves to create sufficient financial flexibility to compete with the offers Brunson is expected to command that could exceed $80 million over four seasons,” Stein wrote Monday in his newsletter.
The Knicks are expected to unload some of their veterans to make a significant roster upgrade this summer. Kemba Walker’s $9.1 million expiring deal, along with Nerlens Noel’s $9.2 million and Alec Burks’ $10 million contracts (with a team option in the final year), are the hot candidates to be moved to clear space and roster logjam.
Another option for the Knicks would be a sign-and-trade, but the Mavericks reportedly will not cooperate.
The Mavericks twice passed up on extending Brunson for a much cheaper deal since the offseason. Stein, however, explained that the Mavericks’ thinking was tied to maintaining flexibility in case they need to include Brunson in a potential deal for a Doncic co-star. Now, Brunson proves he can play that role, raising his stock to an all-time high.
Their reluctance prompted Brunson’s father, Rick, a former Knick and Leon Rose’s first client, to take a shot at the Mavericks’ passiveness.
“We’ve got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words. Ain’t no discount, so don’t put it on us. Don’t tell me you love me. Show me,” Brunson told ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
The Mavericks still have the upper hand against Brunson’s potential suitors led by the Knicks. They have his Bird rights, meaning they could go over the cap to re-sign him for five years while the other teams could only offer four years. Brunson is expected to command $20-25 million per year in a new deal.
“Free agency is essentially two months away as the second round begins, but the Mavericks are adamant that they will do just that when they get the chance,” Stein added.
The Knicks reportedly passed up on a Brunson trade during Rose’s first few months as team president. Now, they will face an uphill battle to steal Brunson away.
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