August 20, 2022

If you’ve been keeping tabs on what the New York Knicks have been up to over the past few months, you’ll notice they didn’t really shy away from acquiring Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson during free agency this summer. .

It started when several members of the Knicks brass — including William Wesley and Julius Randle — attended Dallas’ first-round playoff series against the Utah Jazz to no doubt scout Brunson. That continued with the Knicks signing Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau’s team. Then, in the 2022 NBA Draft on Thursday night, New York orchestrated several moves that freed up $18 million in cap space this summer. All of those moves were made with the thought that the Knicks would try to make a serious run on Brunson, something that suddenly gains real momentum after Thursday night’s trades, according to Mark Stein.

By Stein:

“Sources say New York’s ability in Thursday night’s NBA draft to offload Kemba Walker’s $9.2 million salary for next season, coupled with a growing belief that he can lose more salary to expand his offer when the market officially opens next Thursday, the Knicks have established themselves as a very credible threat to bring Brunson to Gotham.

A source close to the process described this threat as “very, very, very real”.

Heading into Thursday’s draft, the Mavericks were considered the favorites to re-sign Brunson because they can offer him the most money with an additional fifth year on a deal. However, Stein reports that Brunson is “enthusiastic” about being the Knicks’ primary ballplayer, as well as the family ties that bind him to the organization. In addition to Brunson’s father being part of the coaching staff, Knicks president Leon Rose was the former Villanova product agent before moving into a front office role, and is considered Brunson’s family. , by Stein.

Worrying as it may seem for the Mavericks’ chances of re-signing Brunson, Dallas general manager Nico Harrison said after Thursday’s draft that the team doesn’t have a high level of concern when he it was about trying to re-sign their star guard. .

“I mean, we are aware of [the Knicks clearing cap space] but we knew they would do this,” Harrison said. “We weren’t shocked that they did this. They tried to make it on the trade deadline. [We] don’t really have a level of concern. It was expected.”

On top of that, Harrison also said the team is optimistic about their chances of re-signing Brunson.

“Honestly, until he tells us he doesn’t want to be here, we’re optimistic,” Harrison said. “We haven’t heard otherwise, so we’re optimistic. We have to be.”

Dallas can be as bullish as they want, but if it comes down to opportunity rather than money, then the Mavs should be somewhat concerned about Brunson leaving for New York. We saw what Brunson was capable of when Luka Doncic was sidelined for the first three games of the playoffs against the Jazz. He averaged 32 points, 5.3 assists and 5.3 rebounds to lift Dallas to a 2-1 series lead when Doncic returned. As long as Brunson stays in Dallas, he’ll always be second fiddle to Doncic, and if he’s going to have the opportunity to be the best goalie, it should happen somewhere else.

The Mavericks losing Brunson for nothing would be a blow to a team that doesn’t have the financial flexibility to immediately replace its production. If that happens, however, Stein reports Dallas would look to add more wing depth rather than go out and find a replacement for Brunson. Obviously, although the Mavericks prefer Brunson’s name to be signed on the dotted line. We’ll have to wait and see how that pans out when free agency begins, but it sure looks like the Mavericks will have to work a little harder than expected to retain Brunson.