After enjoying the best year of his NBA career during the 2021/22 regular season, Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson has taken his game to another level so far in the playoffs, averaging 29.8 PPG, 5.3 RPG, and 4.8 APG on .483/.409/.857 shooting in four games (38.5 MPG). He played a key role in helping Dallas take a 2-1 lead in the series without Luka Doncic before the All-NBA guard returned in Game 4.
According to Tim MacMahon of ESPN, pro personnel scouts and executives polled by ESPN believe the floor for Brunson – an unrestricted free agent this summer – is now $20MM per year on his next contract. Some people believe the 25-year-old could get upwards of $25MM annually, MacMahon adds.
For his part, Brunson told ESPN that he isn’t thinking about his next contract with the Mavs engaged in a battle with the Jazz for a spot in the second round of the playoffs.
“Not at all. Not at all. I promise you,” Brunson said. “My dad, we’ll joke about it, but (my family knows) that I don’t want to talk about it until the season’s over. That’s really not going to help me right now. … I know it’s a weird situation. People don’t believe that I don’t talk about it, but it’s not a topic of conversation until I guess we get there.”
Brunson said he has “loved every second” of his time in Dallas, and it seems likely the Mavs will get the first shot at re-signing him. Although Brunson isn’t restricted, Dallas holds his Bird rights and can offer him more years and more money than any other suitor — additionally, team owner Mark Cuban has talked about wanting to lock up the point guard long-term. However, Brunson’s father Rick Brunson suggests the Mavs shouldn’t expect to get a team-friendly rate.
“We’ve got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words,” Rick Brunson said, per MacMahon. “Ain’t no discount. So don’t put it on us. Don’t tell me you love me. Show me.”
Here’s more on Brunson:
- Brunson was eligible for a four-year, $55.6MM in-season extension in 2021/22, but the Mavericks didn’t offer it to him until after the trade deadline, according to MacMahon. By that point, Brunson had decided to wait until the offseason to sign a new deal. “I told him once the season is started, that’s it,” Rick Brunson said. “I told the Mavericks, ‘Once the season is started, there’s no contract talk,’ and I went back against my word. In January, I thought he did enough where he deserved (the extension). I said, ‘Hey, take the money, man.’ He wants security. He wants to live here. And (the Mavs) declined. He didn’t turn s–t down. Y’all declined first. When y’all came back to him (in February), we said, ‘Hey, we just want to finish out the season and go from there.'” Signing Brunson to a long-term extension in January would’ve made him ineligible to be traded this season, so the Mavs may have wanted to keep their options open.
- The Pistons and Knicks are widely considered to be potential suitors for Brunson, as previous reported have indicated. League sources tell MacMahon that Detroit likes how Brunson fits alongside Doncic and believes he could play a similar role next to Cade Cunningham. Knicks president of basketball operations and former CAA agent Leon Rose, meanwhile, has several ties to the Brunson family — Rick was his first client and he previously represented Jalen. Now, Leon’s son Sam Rose is one of the agents who reps Jalen at CAA.
- Despite those links to the Knicks, Rick Brunson insists the familial connections won’t be a deciding factor in his son’s free agency. “I’ve made it very clear to Leon, ‘I love you to death. Your son works for Jalen, represents Jalen, but this is about Jalen,'” Rick Brunson said. “… Leon wouldn’t never talk to me again (if Jalen signs elsewhere). The question I have, is it a good fit in New York? We don’t know, because we have to sit down and figure it out (and evaluate the) draft. July 1 is a long way away.”
- Further complicating matters for the Knicks? League sources tell MacMahon that the Mavericks have no intention of accommodating a sign-and-trade scenario, so any team that wants to sign Brunson will likely need cap space to do so. That shouldn’t be a problem for the Pistons, but the Knicks would have to shed some salary to create cap room.
- Interestingly, the Knicks had an opportunity to acquire Brunson in 2020, according to MacMahon, who says the Mavs were dangling a package of Brunson, the No. 18 overall pick, and the No. 31 overall pick that year in an effort to trade up for Tyrese Haliburton. Dallas was unable to find a taker, including the Knicks, who used the No. 8 pick that year on Obi Toppin.