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Grading Jalen Brunson’s $104M Deal With the Knicks

The point guard will sign a four-year deal to join New York.

Before this season began, the Mavericks had a chance to offer Jalen Brunson a four-year, $55 million contract extension. They chose not to, which made sense. He was coming off a poor playoff series against the Clippers, during which he scored 18 total points in the series’s last four games.

The opportunity to lock Brunson up came again several months later, when the Mavs offered that same contract after the trade deadline because doing so before would’ve prevented them from including him in a potential deal for a star. The NBA is a business, but the Brunson family took this personally, as is their right.

While Brunson broke out as a playoff star—he averaged 21.6 points in 18 games as the Mavericks’ clear second-best player on a surprising run to the Western Conference finals—Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father, gave ESPN’s Tim McMahon some insight into how those contract talks with Dallas went down.

“I told the Mavericks, ‘Once the season is started, there’s no contract talk,’ and I went back against my word. In January, I thought he did enough where he deserved [the extension]. I said, ‘Hey, take the money, man.’ He wants security. He wants to live here. And they declined. He didn’t turn s--- down. Y’all declined first. When y’all came back to him, we said, ‘Hey, we just want to finish out the season and go from there.’”

Now, in a move that was anticipated for several days, Brunson is headed to the Knicks on a massive four-year, $104 million contract. The Mavs’ hesitation cost them a very good player—and quality second option beside Luka Dončić—on a bargain contract. He has touch in and around the paint and shot 51.4% in the nonrestricted area (an excellent number for a guard).

Jalen Brunson

But that doesn’t mean this contract should be cause for celebration in New York. Brunson was effective in the playoffs against teams that did everything they could to slow down Luka. In Round 1 he stomped through a Jazz defense that’s tissue paper on the perimeter. The run was productive, but not necessarily sustainable going forward, particularly in a new role, on a worse team that doesn’t space the floor like Dallas could. Brunson is a 6'1" combo guard who can’t get to the free throw line and doesn’t shoot threes off the bounce. As a team that won just 37 games and has no clear path to winning a playoff series, the Knicks spent the past week moving draft picks and clearing cap space to treat him—a 25-year-old who probably won’t ever make an All-Star team—as their top priority.

There are other reasons why the Knicks were so in on Brunson, too. His father is now on Tom Thibodeau’s coaching staff (after previously working under him in Chicago and Minnesota) while Knicks president of basketball operations Leon Rose was once Rick and Jalen Brunson’s agent. (Rose’s son, Sam Rose, is Brunson’s current agent.)

Acquiring Brunson is of course not the end of the world. He’s a nice player who made a notable jump last season. But taking into account the cost, who else is on the Knicks and the lengths they went to obtain him (keeping the No. 11 pick in the draft would’ve been nice!), don’t be surprised if this pursuit ultimately backfires. 


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