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Why Jalen Brunson is likely to leave the Mavericks and join the Knicks

Unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson is set to join the New York Knicks on a possible deal of $110M. Where did the Dallas Mavericks go wrong?

Update:
Unrestricted free agent Jalen Brunson is set to join the New York Knicks on a possible deal of $110M. Where did the Dallas Mavericks go wrong?
Jerome MironUSA TODAY Sports

Rumors are swirling around that Jalen Brunson will sign a four-year deal with the New York Knicks in excess of $100 million. The Knicks traded Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, two second-round draft picks, and $6 million to the Detroit Pistons, clearing $19 million in cap space. It’s looking more and more likely that money will go towards making Brunson their new star guard.

Brunson averaged a career-high 16.8 points and 4.8 assists per game last season. He picked up the slack with Luka Doncic injured and helped the Mavs win the Western Conference finals. The Mavericks’ post season run went much deeper than most anticipated, and that was mainly due to the depth they had at the guard position. Doncic was out 17 games last season, and Brunson played some of his best games with Doncic out, averaging 20.4 points and 7.5 assists, bringing the Mavs to 8-9 without Doncic. That increased in the playoffs - with Doncic out, Brunson’s usage improved to 34%.

The Mavericks were talking about giving Brunson around the same amount of money on a five-year deal, while making it clear they had a limit on what they were willing to spend on keeping Brunson. They also stated that keeping him on the team was their main priority. Meanwhile, the Knicks were willing to do whatever it takes to get Brunson on the team. Since the Knicks made all these moves, they didn’t have to go through any trades or moves with the Mavericks, and the Mavs now seem set to lose Brunson with nothing in return.

Another reason Brunson could be persuaded by the Knicks move is that his father, Rick Brunson, just joined the Knicks’ coaching staff. Apparently though, the Mavericks have known about Brunson’s possible move to the Knicks for a while now. Conversations have shifted from keeping him to replacing him. Before the season started, the Mavs had the opportunity to offer Brunson a four-year, $55.5 million extension, but chose not to. Now, the Mavericks enter the 2022-23 season with a roster that’s around $7 million over the luxury-tax threshold and are anticipated to stay there, and now without Brunson.

Part of the appeal of joining the Knicks would be that Brunson could be the full-time starting guard. Whereas in Dallas, he’s more of a secondary to Doncic. Rick Brunson spoke with ESPN back in April, and spoke to the fact that being the star is an alluring factor for any player.

“You try to raise them the right way in terms of understanding the game, but everyone wants what Luka has,” said [Rick] Brunson. “I don’t care who you are. Everyone wants that feeling of, ‘Hey, I can do this too.’ I don’t always think the grass is greener on the other side, but we’ll sit down this summer and go through all the pros and cons of staying here or going somewhere else.”

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