It’s no secret to anyone who paid any attention to the Dallas Mavericks this season — Jalen Brunson has earned a raise come this summer.
In 18 NBA playoff games this season, he averaged 21.6 points per game and 4.6 rebounds after averaging a career-best 16 points and 4 assists in the regular season. Brunson took his game to the next level as Dallas’ needed him to. And as an unrestricted free agent, Brunson displayed his value to Dallas in the long term.
“It’s the top priority,” General Manager Nico Harrison said of re-signing Brunson, who moved into the starting lineup in December. “We got to figure that out. Obviously, we’re not in control of it. But he’s definitely a priority. We want to re-sign him. He knows it. And we want him back. He’ll be a big part of our future.”
Brunson’s playoff performance
Despite his incandescent play, Brunson has elected to speak little of his impending free agency. Instead, he’s focused on the game and his play. And Brunson’s mentality has paid dividends for his on-court production.
He scored 41 points against the Utah Jazz in Game 2 of the first round of the NBA playoffs, leading the Mavericks to a critical win without Luka Doncic. In the second round, Brunson again produced in a must-win Game 3 against Phoenix, scoring 28 points as Dallas’ staved off a prospectus 3-0 deficit, going on to win the series, 4-3, in Game 7.
In the Western Conference finals, Brunson averaged 18 points against Golden State’s veteran-ladened defense. He provided a secondary scorer for the few nights Doncic couldn’t get it going. And despite his effort, Dallas lost the series in Game 5, 120-110. It wasn’t the result Dallas wanted, but Brunson’s impression remains at the forefront of the organization’s mind.
“It’s a cool thing to bet on yourself. And that’s what he did,” Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd said of Brunson’s contract situation. “But we’re a part of that bet. And now he has to wait and see. I’ll support whatever decision he makes, even if it’s not with us. He’s a great human being. Not just a great basketball player.”
Regardless of Kidd’s praises, Brunson isn’t worried about the impending free agency decision.
“My agent called me last night, and said ‘hell of a season, we’ll talk in a couple days, unwind,’” Brunson said. “That’s the extent of what’s been said so far. I’m not really worried about it as of right now. I just want to kind of relax, reflect and then go from there.”
Brunson’s future in Dallas
Brunson will command the attention of the free-agent market’s largest bidders. It’s clear he hasn’t neared a decision yet, and the process of re-signing him will be drawn out throughout the summer. And Brunson won’t rush anything. That’s just who he is. If Harrison and Mark Cuban have anything to say about his return, it’s that Brunson is a priority, and having him return to Dallas wearing a Maverick uniform is the primary goal of the optimistic offseason ahead.
“When it’s time, it’s time,” Brunson said of his contract situation. “When it happens, it happens. I’m not worried about it right now.”
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Feature image via Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports.