You can smell the fear from Dallas Maverick fans festering across the Internet. Not only is it palpable, but it's also justified. They are close to potentially losing their second-best player, unrestricted free agent, Jalen Brunson. As a contributor, Brunson is not Kristaps Porziņģis, the oft-injured, underperforming big man maligned by both Knicks and Mavs fanbases. Brunson was one of only two 2018 draft picks former Mavs GM Donnie Nelson hit on over the last decade. The other being Luka Dončić. Over the last four years, Mavs fans watched as their second-round pick rose from bench player to playoff hero, single-handily knocking off the Utah Jazz in the First Round of last season’s playoffs. Their second-round draft pick has grown into the second-best player for the Mavs. This has been no small feat for a team that routinely strikes out in free agency and typically loses the trades it swings on.
Across the Twittersphere, Mav fans have wondered out loud why Brunson would join the hapless Knicks, who have malcontent Julius Randle and an inconsistent RJ Barrett (.418/.357/.697 career shooting splits)? Well, Brunson did a pretty good job being a secondary scorer and facilitator next to Dončić (.457/.337/.737 career shooting splits) and a roster not exactly brimming with talented bench players (sorry, Frank Ntilikina). What’s stopping him from bringing that same energy to the Knicks?
It’s sad to admit that Brunson would immediately be the best point guard the Knicks have employed since Stephon Marbury. That’s 20 years of watching Chris Duhon, José Calderón, Raymond Felton, and Elfrid Payton man the point guard spot. The Mavs SB Nation blog expertly pointed out how the Mavs have put themselves in a position to fleece themselves. Mavs GM Nico Harrison wrongly assumed he would/could use Brunson in sign and trade options last season and not locking up Brunson to an extension earlier.
Speaking of paying, at this point, with Brunson’s dad on the coaching staff payroll, Knicks fans can expect the team to overpay drastically for Brunson’s services. The majority of the New York fanbase's conflict with the Brunson pursuit is the potential overpay. After the Mavs recent playoff overachieve, Brunson’s value vaulted over $20 million. The bidding war between the Knicks and Mavs should raise his asking price to $25 million. Rumors have persisted the Knicks have been clearing cap space to reach the $25 million per year.
Almost every Mavs-centric blog and media outlets have begun to face the inevitability of losing Brunson for nothing this week. With all signs pointing to the Knicks throwing the bag at the guard, the Knicks are hoping to solve their two-decades-long point guard issue.
Let’s start with the good: Brunson is an efficient shooter. His career shooting splits are .502/.373/.800. Not bad for a guard who increased his attempts to 12.8 this season while shooting a .583 TS%. Brunson’s best offensive trait is his ability to cut into the teeth of the defense for shots at the rim. He proved this in all three rounds of the playoffs this year. And he did it against some of the best rim protectors in the game: Rudy Gobert, Deandre Ayton, and Draymond Green/Kevin Looney. He is a fearless when attacking the basket while always playing within his abilities He only turned over the ball 1.6 times per game. With the Knicks, Brunson would add needed floor-spacing at the point and help unlock Obi Toppin, RJ Barrett, Cam Reddish, and Mitchell Robinson (assuming he resigns) while taking the ball out of Evan Fournier and Julius Randle’s hands.
Brunson’s quiet, bullish demeanor would serve him well in NYC. Being born and raised in Jersey and coming from a Knicks pedigree (his dad played for the Knicks in the early 2000s), it’s assumed he would be able to withstand the media circus of New York. Adding Brunson to a rotation of Derrick Rose and Immanuel Quickley would give the franchise the best point guard rotation for nearly 50 years.
The Knicks signing Brunson doesn't have as profound pros and cons as the Mavs resigning him. This is due to the Mavs falling into the luxury tax with Brunson’s signing and likely the repeater tax if they offer him a five-year deal. It would give both teams another difficult-to-trade asset further on down the line. For the Knicks, the contracts of Randle and Fournier are already tough to swallow, although they could be far worse. In addition, giving Brunson $25 million per would make him the second-highest-paid Knick. That’s not ideal for a player who averaged 16.3 PPG last season.
But for a team desperate for stability at the point guard position, it might be worth it just for the peace of mind. At least Knicks are working towards absorbing Brunson’s deal into their cap space, avoiding having to forfeit young players and draft picks in a sign and trade to the Mavs, a team that has tried and failed desperately to reignite lost cause former Knicks players. Looking at how Brunson fits into New York, it could be worse, considering other options like Malcolm Brogdan. Brunson is a steady hand with facilitation ability to unlock our athletic, frontcourt players. If the Knicks decide to overspend on Brunson, Knicks fans should be able to agree it’s better to spend $25 million on Brunson, opposed to Kemba Walker, Alec Burks, and Nerlens Noel.