New York Knicks‘ free-agent target Jalen Brunson continues to make his case for a huge payday this summer.
Brunson scattered 18 points, four rebounds and four assists in the Dallas Mavericks’ 111-101 win Sunday to tie their series at two games apiece, and most importantly, he took away Chris Paul’s impact on the Phoenix Suns.
Paul only had five points in a foul-plagued 23 minutes of action. Brunson posted up Paul and bullied him in the paint.
The Mavericks’ stocky point guard drew Paul’s fifth foul early in the third quarter. Brunson took Paul out of the game with his sixth foul and still 8:58 remaining in the fourth quarter.
It’s no secret that the Knicks covet Brunson. But Brunson’s stellar play in the playoffs has made him so valuable to the Mavericks that they are reportedly not willing to help the Knicks in a sign-and-trade scenario.
The Knicks have no cap space, and while they have a bunch of veterans on expiring deals, they still have to unload them before competing for Brunson’s services in the open market.
So what should the Knicks do if they cannot land Brunson this summer?
Should they pursue the next best available free agent point guard in the market?
This summer’s free-agent class of point guards isn’t as deep as the previous years.
Should the Knicks settle with backup guards Tyus Jones and Ricky Rubio or journeyman Dennis Schroder? Pursue a Russell Westbrook trade or John Wall if the Houston Rockets buy him out? Or maybe steal away Cleveland Cavaliers’ restricted free agent Collin Sexton?
If Brunson goes elsewhere, and unless there’s a superstar to chase this summer, the Knicks might be better staying the course.
Immanuel Quickley showed in the final half of this past season that he’s ready for a bigger role. With Derrick Rose coming back, the Knicks should have two solid point guards.
Leon Rose must take a cue from the Philadelphia 76ers on how they approached Tyrese Maxey’s development into a rising star in a contender.
Rose lauded the development of their young core during his end-of-the-season pre-taped interview with MSG Network’s Mike Breen. He has the power to keep them on track. All he needs to do is convince, or perhaps much better, send the mission order to Thibodeau to start Quickley.
If that happens, the Knicks still have a quality second unit backcourt with feisty incoming sophomore Miles McBride replacing Quickley as Derrick Rose’s understudy.
With Quickley running the point next to Evan Fournier, RJ Barrett, Julius Randle and Mitchell Robinson, the Knicks have outscored their opponents by 13.6 points this past season, according to Cleaning The Glass.
Quickley’s outside threat and his 6-foot-10 wingspan are his best gifts, but he’s made a conscious effort to attack the rim more in his sophomore year — a point guard attribute that Thibodeau covets.
Not only did he improve his accuracy (56 percent to 62 percent) from his rookie season, but he also did it with more volume (22-39 to 48-78), jumping from 37th percentile to 61st percentile in the league in shots at the rim, per CTG. That was a better mark than what Brunson did during his sophomore year in Dallas, where he shot 49 of 84 (58 percent) at the rim, good for only 55th percentile in the league, per CTG.
Quickley has shown flashes that he could be better than Brunson in his Year 4. He’s committed and driven. All he needs is the opportunity to realize his potential.
The Knicks don’t need to settle for anything less this summer. They might already have the best option available in their fold.
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