Jalen Brunson meets with Knicks, Mavs, Heat in NBA Free Agency


Jalen Brunson meets with Knicks, Mavs, Heat in NBA Free Agency

Leon Rose and the Knicks are back on the clock. This time they want to get away with a hitter.

A week after being eliminated from the first round of the NBA draft looking tonight, the Knicks are believed to be in the driver’s seat to land Mavericks free agent point guard Jalen Brunson.

But Brunson will meet with other teams before making a decision, Yahoo Sports reported. The 25-year-old former Villanova star will hold meetings with the Knicks, Mavericks and Heat starting Thursday at 6 p.m. when free agency time begins.

Brunson has numerous ties to the Knicks — team president Rose is his former agent, Rose’s son Sam is his current agent, he has close ties to coach Tom Thibodeau and guard Derrick Rose, his father Rick was recently hired to join Thibodeau on staff and he is grew up in southern New Jersey – and he has been her focus for quite some time. They cleared more than $30 million worth of Cap Space to offer him a four-year, $100 million deal. They traded veterans Kemba Walker, Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks, as well as the 2022 draft pick for pick 11.

On Tuesday, a slew of reports pinned the Knicks as the big favorites to sign Brunson. Dallas, ESPN reported, was only willing to offer Brunson a five-year deal as part of the four-year, $85 million deal Raptors guard Fred VanVleet signed in 2020. Brunson turned down a four-year, $55.5 million deal from Dallas after the close of trade.

Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks drives to the basket
In addition to the Knicks, Jalen Brunson also meets the Mavericks and Heat.
Getty Images

A source close to Brunson believes he’ll be a kink unless the Mavericks take a different stance on what they’re willing to offer and raise the cash each year.

“It would be hard to turn down,” the source said.

Meanwhile, the Mavericks would have to agree to a sign-and-trade at The Heat to negotiate a deal, as they don’t have nearly enough room to pay Brunson anywhere near what the other two franchises could pay him.

There’s a school of thought that the Knicks are overpaying Brunson, a player who only became a full-time starter for the Mavericks in December. They’ve had to move several draft picks (including the No. 11 overall pick that year) and veteran players to create enough cap space to afford it. Brunson, a former second-round pick, has averaged 11.9 points, 3.7 points and 3.0 rebounds in 24.7 minutes over his five-year NBA career while shooting 37.3 percent from 3-point range.

“That will make them more competitive, but it doesn’t make them a serious contender,” said a league source. “He’s a very talented player. What does he turn the Knicks into? They’ll probably move past the play-in. Do they win a round? I do not know.

“I don’t think what you have now – him, Julius [Randle] and RJ [Barrett] as your top three – will break into the upper echelons of the Eastern Conference.”

Brunson is just 25 years old and is coming off his best season by far, in which he had career highs in points (16.3), assists (4.8), rebounds (3.9) and minutes (31.9). Brunson was great in the playoffs and helped the Mavericks reach the Western Conference Finals by recording 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists. He showed his potential when superstar Luka Doncic was injured in the first round, scoring games of 41 and 31 points in victories over the Jazz.

Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson (13) drives around Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul.
Jalen Brunson could be the Knicks’ best point guard since the mid-1990s.
AP photo

Former kink and current Mavericks wing Reggie Bullock took to Twitter to support Brunson’s big payday.

“JB deserves everything that comes his way, a true hard worker and definitely LIKE DAT,” he tweeted with pocket and dollar sign emojis. “AND BETTER PERSON OUTSIDE THE COURT.”

The Knicks have 11 first-round picks left in the next seven years and have managed to retain all of their young players. Those assets could allow them to make a big trade despite missing out on Spurs All-Star guard Dejounte Murray, who was reportedly dealt to the Hawks for a package of three first-round picks on Wednesday.

If Brunson actually picks the Knicks, he would potentially fill a decades-long gap at point guard for the franchise that put Burks out of position last year due to injuries to Derrick Rose and Walker there.

As of 2009, the Knicks have had 12 different starting point guards on opening night. Only Raymond Felton started more than once at this position in inaugural races during this stretch in 2010 and 2012. The list includes journeymen such as Felton, Trey Burke, Ramon Sessions, Chris Duhon and Jose Calderon.

Brunson would be, on paper at least, the best floor general in the Knicks since Derek Harper in the mid-1990s. Brunson is in his prime and has had his best season as a pro. He would join franchise linchpin Barrett to form a young 1-2 backcourt duo that could lead the Knicks back into playoff contention.

But first, the Knicks need to sign him.

Brunson was the reason they emerged empty-handed from the first round of the draft last week. This, the Knicks hope, will be the payoff for a busy moving week.

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