In the backdrop of this season’s NBA playoffs is Jalen Brunson’s impending free agency this summer.
The four-year guard out of Villanova is wrapping up the final year of his rookie contract. And during a contract year, he’s saved his best production for the NBA’s biggest stage. Against the Utah Jazz in round one of the playoffs, Brunson is averaging 29 points per game on 48% from the field. Brunson tallied a career-high 41 points in Game 2, followed by a 31-point performance in Game 3. With each performance, he’s driven up his market value come the summer.
Despite his play, ESPN reported Monday morning that the Mavericks missed an opportunity to re-sign Brunson on a team-friendly four-year $55.5 million deal. The rationale behind Dallas’ reluctance to re-sign Brunson was due to his struggles against the LA Clippers in the 2021 playoffs. Against the Clippers, he averaged eight points through seven games and was effectively played off the floor.
“Dallas could have signed Brunson to a four-year extension for as much as $55.5 million before the season, but the Mavs didn’t offer it then, nor did they engage in negotiations with Brunson’s representatives,” Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes.
After Brunson started the 2021-22 season playing well, the Mavericks attempted to re-sign him before the Feb. 10 deadline, according to ESPN. A deal couldn’t be reached, thus guaranteeing Brunson would enter unrestricted free agency in the 2022 offseason. As things stand currently, Brunson currently ranks 14th on the Mavericks in salary. A hometown discount may not be in order.
The teams interested in Jalen Brunson
Two teams are interested in Brunson, according to ESPN. One is the New York Knicks, a franchise that has struggled to put together a consistently winning roster since Carmelo Anthony left. The second is the Detroit Pistons, who are in the midst of a rebuild but see Brunson as fitting perfect alongside Cade Cunningham.
Lost in the reporting, however, is Brunson’s desire to stay in Dallas. He told ESPN that he enjoys being here and playing with his teammates, but in the NBA, an affinity for teammates and an organization isn’t always enough.
“I’ve been with these guys for four years, and I’ve loved every second of it,” Brunson said to ESPN. “That family atmosphere is something that I love.
What it would cost to keep Brunson
Brunson has played his way into what will be a hefty second contract. ESPN reported that Brunson’s price range on the open market now resides in the $20-$25.5 million range.
Mark Cuban may have been unsure about an extension last summer. That’s fair. However, this summer, it will cost him.
“He’s going to make a lot of money,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said after Game 2. “If he needs an agent… I’ll put my name in the hat.”
Kidd won’t need his name in a hat to be Brunson’s agent this summer, he’ll need to be a voice whispering in his ear telling him to stay. And if Brunson leaves in free agency, the mishandling of his contract may be one of Dallas’ biggest blunders since breaking up Steven Nash and Dirk Nowitzki.
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Feature image via Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports.