When the 2021-22 NBA season ended, Jalen Brunson expressed his deep desire to return to the Dallas Mavericks. Similarly, the Mavs expressed their desire was to bring Jalen back to Dallas. Fast forward five weeks and none of that appears to be true anymore.
Or was it never true?
We may never know how sincere all parties were when those words were first said, what we do seem to know is that they are no longer relevant and Jalen Brunson is leaving the Mavericks in free agency.
The Mavericks appear to be losing Jalen Brunson to the Knicks, how come and what’s the next move?
Consider yours truly fooled by the situation. I bought into the statements made hook, line, and sinker. Earlier in the week I gave the Mavericks a 90% chance of retaining Brunson. They were a better organization, more successful team, a place where he’s happy, and somewhere that could pay him roughly $30 million more.
The Knicks could only offer that they recently employed his family, played in a bigger media market, and would make him their No. 1 scoring option. Not much a package.
It’s because things in the background didn’t shake out as advertised. The biggest change in the outlined formula was the money. Something I harped on right away this summer is how money matters more than all. If the Mavs really wanted to keep Brunson they could outbid the Knicks and Brunson would, no doubt, follow the green.
Turns out the Mavs didn’t want him THAT much.
Tim McMahon reported the Mavs were going to offer a contract that’s roughly 5 years/$100 M. They wanted to stop at what Fred VanVleet got. The Knicks aggressively shed salaries so they could offer him decidedly more per season. They saw the Mavs limits and they passed it considerably. Suddenly the Mavs biggest advantage was no longer an advantage.
Why didn’t Brunson sign with Dallas?
Dallas simply didn’t want to pay him that much.
the Mavs could have retained Brunson if they wanted to badly enough. They just didn’t want him as much as the Knicks.
There’s still little doubt that the Mavs could have retained Brunson if they wanted to badly enough. They just didn’t want him as much as the Knicks. Plain and simple.
So, Brunson is going to New York and since the Mavericks are already over the salary cap they don’t have money to replace him suitably. That’s the real pain of the situation. They’re losing a top-3 offensive player for nothing.
The best way for the Mavs to replace Brunson is to do so internally. Whether that’s the recent addition of Christian Wood, the return of Tim Hardaway Jr, or Spencer Dinwiddie sliding more comfortably into his role, the Mavs need their current players to step up and replace Brunson’s production.
The good news (something we’ll dive into more this summer): Brunson was at his best when he was on the court without Luka Doncic. He took the weight off Luka’s shoulders by being a creator but his best performances were without Luka. Dinwiddie and Hardaway just fit better on the court with Luka.
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Would we rather have Brunson than have nothing? Obviously. And I have no idea whether the Knicks are going to regret this more or the Mavs. What I know is this sets the Mavs back. And the Mavs can’t make up for the loss of Brunson this offseason (on paper, at least).
At the end of the day, the outcome is surprising but why we got to this outcome is not surprising.
Dallas doesn’t think he is worth it and New York thinks he is. He’s obviously going to the team that values him more and wants to pay him more, right?
I was overestimating the Mavericks desire to keep Brunson in Dallas so this comes as a sad surprise. The Mavs will have to lean on their own to overcome. Possible? Yes, but the pressure is on Nico Harrison to pull a rabbit out of hat for one last piece.