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Mavs' Jalen Brunson: Best & Worst Case NBA Contract Scenarios

While four of his draft classmates signed their rookie extensions due on the Oct. 18 first-round pick deadline, Dallas Mavericks backup point guard Jalen Brunson patiently waits for his turn.

The 2021 playoffs didn't paint Jalen Brunson as the dependable backup point guard we saw for most of the regular season. Lining up against the Los Angeles Clippers played to the bulldog-like guard's disadvantage. Brunson averaged only 16 minutes per game due in part to the long-armed Clippers hindering his court vision. 

However, it wasn't all bad, as Brunson registered a 46-percent three-point percentage in the seven-game series. 

Although the 2021 postseason doesn't measure his overall body of work, it does, however, implicate perhaps why Dallas hasn't extended him to a long-term deal.

Or, on the flip side of that, it could just be Brunson and his agent simply waiting for the offseason in order to maximize his potential earnings. As of right now, the most Dallas could offer Brunson in a contract extension is about $55 million over four years. As an unrestricted free agent next summer, that contract ceiling amount rises significantly. This isn't to say Brunson would touch a max contract worth nearly $30 million per year (based on next summer's salary cap projections), but he could definitely end up making more than what the most the Mavs can currently offer him, which is about $13-14 million per year.

Every season, Brunson improved a facet of his game. For his rookie season, the second-round draft pick, probably due to former head coach Rick Carlisle's lack of patience for rookie guards not named Luka Doncic, played conservatively but produced an overall adequate effort. 

Unfortunately, his second season didn't finish appropriately due to a shoulder injury. Then, as alluded earlier, the 2020-2021 season saw the backup guard averaging 12 points on 40-percent 3-point shooting. 

In a contract year, with the Mavericks as a fitting piece, Brunson must erase the memory of his performance vs. the Clippers, ultimately proving why he's a must-have player for a winning team. 

Best-Case Scenario

Dallas, although flexible in lineups, are financially-speaking as constricted as an airplane restroom. The Mavericks new front office can't afford to lose such a player with no return. Don't worry, Mavs fans. You shouldn't expect the front office to goof up with a Doncic-favorite.  

Predicting the backup guard's market seems a bit easier in light of the multiple players signing rookie extensions earlier this week. Whether or not Brunson signs with Dallas, he will have a plethora of suitors on the open market. 

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In any event, back to Brunson's on-court focus. Brunson, although a fine sixth man, stands to gain more if he finished games with the starters. Last season, the backup guard clicked to a high degree in this five-man lineup: Willie Caulie-Stein, Dorian Finney-Smith, Tim Hardaway Jr., and Doncic. While sharing the court with those players, the Mavericks netted +34.2 points per 100 possessions per Basketball-Reference.

Although Caulie-Stein doesn't seem like the ideal closing center, the other three players will finish contests. Nonetheless, Brunson has a track record of playing the role of a quality support player. However, playing the facilitator allows Doncic a much-needed break in playmaking responsibilities.

Kidd says he trusts Brunson on the same level as Doncic. Time will tell if he genuinely means that or if the Mavs head coach is revving up his backup point guard. For Brunson to have the perception of a legitimate guard, he must prove it in the postseason.

The best-case scenario for Brunson's 2021-2022 campaign points toward building with Doncic in late-game situations, ultimately converting to postseason play. Owner Mark Cuban admitted over the summer that Dallas needs another ball-handler, but they didn't acquire one in the offseason. 

They must hope for in-house growth, and Brunson is the only player who fits the bill.

Worst-Case Scenario

As mentioned often, some think Brunson "lacks the vision of a playoff point guard,'' at least to this point in his career. Agree or not, the fact still remains the Villanova alum must escape the black hole he slips into when bigger defenders crowd his line of sight. 

Now, when critiquing his play-making lapses, that doesn't mean Brunson doesn't showcase glimpses of starter-level passing ability. When No. 13 drives downhill, he excels. Last season, Brunson led the team in efficiency within three feet of the basket at an impressive 79 percent. Brunson's heady play as a finisher doesn't go unnoticed.

Due to Brunson's short stature, bad things happen when he picks up the ball. For the second-string point guard to extend possessions, he must find a dribbling rhythm. As shooting is no longer an issue on this roster (it is hoped), the only other offensive puzzle piece remains the ball-handling, specifically creating for others. 

The worst-case scenario for Brunson falls under failure to develop a starter-level handle for the ball. ... Therefore, causing Kidd to lose Brunson in the crowded rotation during clutch situations, ultimately downplaying his worth to the franchise long-term.