No less than Mavericks owner Mark Cuban indicated that they want to keep Brunson at all costs.
“We can pay him more than anybody. And I think he wants to stay, and that’s most important,” Cuban told Bally Sports Southwest sideline reporter and NBA insider Marc Stein, just moments after the Mavericks bowed out in the Western Conference Finals Thursday night.
Brunson raised his stocks further in the playoffs, averaging 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists after a career-high 16.3 points in the regular season.
The Mavericks bungled their chance to lock up Brunson in a much lesser deal last summer and during this season. Now, Cuban will have to open his wallet to secure their Doncic-Brunson backcourt and pay a huge luxury tax.
Per ESPN’s front office insider Bobby Marks, Brunson’s floor is the four-year, $75 million contract his teammate, Tim Hardaway, Jr., signed last year.
“The comparison for Brunson ranges from the four-year, $78 million extension that Marcus Smart signed with Boston to the four-year, $96 million extension that Terry Rozier signed last year with the Charlotte Hornets,” Marks wrote.
"We can pay him more than anybody…I think he wants to stay and that's most important."@mcuban talks to @TheSteinLine about the Mavericks chances of re-signing @jalenbrunson1 this offseason. pic.twitter.com/FnOV9LTagO
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) May 27, 2022
The Knicks and the Detroit Pistons are the threat to lure Brunson out of Dallas. But they could only offer him four years. The Mavericks are unperturbed as they hold Brunson’s Bird rights. They could offer the most money with an additional fifth year on a deal. On top of that, as presently constructed, the Mavericks offer Brunson his best shot at an NBA championship with Luka Doncic on board.
The Knicks need to unload at least $20 million in salaries (a combination of Alec Burks, Nerlens Noel or Kemba Walker) by June 30 to have a cap space to go after Brunson in the free agency. A sign-and-trade deal involving Knicks’ own unrestricted free agent Mitchell Robinson is more complicated than it seems.
First, the Knicks will need Robinson and the Mavericks’ cooperation. Then the salaries will be hard to match.
Marks noted that “only 50% of Brunson’s incoming salary for a new team applies. That means a $20 million salary counts as only $10 million in incoming salary, but the full amount still applies toward outgoing salary.”
The Mavs do have their $10.9M TPE but it expires before FA opens, so they can't do a S&T for Mitch that way. NY does have another center making $8.8M if DAL wants him. Absorbing Noel into the TPE wouldn't hard cap Dallas. Could even get him for the low, low price of a future 2nd!
— Jeremy Cohen (@TheCohencidence) May 23, 2022
Only the Pistons appear to be a threat among the four teams with projected cap space. But Brunson playing next to Cade Cunningham isn’t as appealing as playing next to Doncic. Phoenix Suns’ restricted free agent DeAndre Ayton could also be a bigger fish for the Pistons to catch this summer.
The Knicks are viewed as a legitimate threat not only because of the deep ties that link them to Brunson, but they could also offer him the keys to their backcourt.
Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father, was Leon Rose’s first NBA client. Rose also represented Jalen and negotiated his four-year rookie contract with the Mavericks. Now, Rose’s son, Sam, is one of Jalen’s Creative Artists Agency’s representatives.
But Rick made it very clear that it will ultimately be a business decision, not personal.
“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,” Rick told ESPN in late April.
“It’s about what’s best for Jalen. Leon wouldn’t never talk to me again. The question I have is, 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.”
After Brunson, the Knicks’ free agent options at point guard are limited with Tyus Jones, Ricky Rubio, Dennis Schroeder and Gary Payton II.
If they miss out on Brunson, and unless they could pull off a trade for Donovan Mitchell, perhaps the Knicks should consider promoting Immanuel Quickley to the starting unit with a fit-again Derrick Rose quarterbacking the second unit with Miles McBride.
Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo