The Knicks going after Jalen Brunson may be the worst kept secret in all of basketball right now. For the last few months, everyone around the NBA has reported numerous times that the Knicks would love to improve at the point guard position and are looking to do so by getting Brunson during the off-season. What started out as rumors during the season became more realistic when the Knicks hired Rick Brunson, Jalen’s father, to become an assistant coach for the team and with the Knicks’ maneuvers to create cap space on draft night, it is pretty much set in stone that he is the Knicks’ priority this summer. But landing Brunson won’t be simple.
One, the Dallas Mavericks can offer him more money than anyone else (up to $175 million over 5 years, which is about $35 mil per year), including the Knicks despite their recent moves (up to $100 million over 4 years, or about $25 mil/year). Two, Brunson and the Mavericks mutually seem keen on extending their marriage. Dallas saw flashes of a star in Brunson, especially when Luka Doncic was out, and will make it their priority as well to bring back the guard as they will not want to let a budding star go after a deep playoff run. Brunson will most likely take the better contract and the ability to compete with a better roster making the Knicks’ chances of getting Brunson a pretty slim one. And at first, that may sound like a negative or a loss, but there is a chance that it could end up benefitting the Knicks.
There is no doubt Brunson has turned himself into a very solid player. He looked like he could be good enough to lead an offense as THE GUY when Doncic was out. He has the ability to not only knock down threes but get into the lane and finish at an impressive rate both in the paint and in the mid-range. And he seems to have the intangibles that it takes to play in New York. He seems confident and tough and likes the bright lights. But there are doubts that a 6’1” point guard — who isn’t a great defender and prefers to have the ball in his hands — is worth whatever the Knicks would have to give up to acquire him. In a vacuum, sure, maybe he is worth it. But given the Knicks current roster, personnel, and skillset, there is definitely an argument to be made that Brunson doesn’t move the needle enough and that it just may not be worth it.
This leaves the Knicks with only a couple options to fill in the point guard position. Immanuel Quickley could end up taking the job as he finished the season on a very high note. There is a large portion of the Knicks’ fanbase that would love the opportunity to see Quickley as the starting point guard for multiple reasons. He showed flashes of being a good playmaker and seems to be able to push the tempo, which not only help him but also helps out the likes of Julius Randle, RJ Barrett and Obi Toppin. While he did start the season struggling with his shooting, he did show once again during the final months of the season how good of a scorer he can be given the minutes and opportunity. But there is a decent chance that the front office want to keep him in his current role and if that is the case, then there aren’t many great options as this free agent class offers very little at the point guard position. But there is one name that has flown somewhat under the radar, and that is the Memphis Grizzlies’ Tyus Jones.
An unrestricted free agent, the 6’0” point guard out of Duke offers the Knicks a lot of what they are looking for. He is a very solid point-of-attack defender with very solid fundamentals on the defensive end. You can find him annoying guards as they bring the ball up and using his frame to his advantage in maneuvering around screens pretty well and has averaged nearly 2.0 steals per 36 mins. On the offensive end, he has been a great floor general on offense with good playmaking and low turnover numbers (0.7 per game for his career). And he has even turned himself into a solid three-point shooter as he shot 39% from deep last season. He, like Brunson without Doncic, had some really impressive performances when star point guard Ja Morant was out. Pairing him up with Randle and Barrett would allow them to focus on what they do best, scoring. And Thibodeau gets a pesky relentless defender who has no problem playing big minutes. Acquiring Jones won’t necessarily be easy either, as the Grizzlies seem to be making it their priority to bring him back after trading away backup guard De’Anthony Melton. But it is also important to note that they drafted Kennedy Chandler who the team may look at as another possible option to back up Morant.
Now this isn’t to say that Jones is better than, or even as good as, Brunson. Brunson is already better and has higher upside. He is definitely the sexier name. But Jones’ contract negotiations are said to start around the $13mil per year that Patrick Beverley received, and the Knicks could potentially pry Jones away with the promise of a starting job. If the Knicks went this route, they’d be able to keep Cam Reddish, who the team may look to get rid of to add cap space in the Brunson sweepstakes, and use the rest of the cap space on another young project or veteran that they could swap for even more draft picks later on down the line. Tyus Jones move may not make headlines or move the needle as much as Brunson does, but there is reason to believe that it may be the smarter move since there is less risk and an argument to be had that the fit is better.
Most games with 5+ assists and fewer than two turnovers over the past two seasons:— Tommy Beer (@TommyBeer) June 27, 2022
1. Tyus Jones (42)
2. Dejounte Murray (39)
3. Mike Conley (38)
4. Chris Paul (35)
5. Fred VanVleet (35)
Both free agents will be difficult to acquire, but this is yet another important offseason for the Knicks. After having a loud offseason last year, the team sputtered and had a very underwhelming and disappointing season. Now, with the team looking to not fully rebuild but definitely retool, they will need to make decisions that not only make the team better but set them up for success long-term. The good news is even if neither guys comes, they can run out Immanuel Quickley and at least find out if he can be the starting point guard of the future.