Eleven players are averaging at least 25 points per game in these playoffs: 10 established All-Stars and Jalen Brunson.
Brunson led the Mavericks to a pair of victories over the Jazz without Luka Doncic, scoring 41 and 31 points. Even once Doncic returned, Brunson played well in a supporting role.
This breakout postseason comes at a great time for Brunson, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent this summer.
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.
Nor were the Mavs willing to make that commitment midseason
Dallas offered the extension immediately after the Feb. 10 trade deadline
“I told him once the season is started, that’s it,” Rick Brunson says. “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 they declined.
“He didn’t turn s— down. Y’all declined first. When y’all came back to him, we said, ‘Hey, we just want to finish out the season and go from there.'”
Dallas signed Dorian Finney-Smith to the same largest-allowable contract extension (four years, $55,560,960) right after the trade deadline. Like Finney-Smith, Brunson would’ve been a bargain on that deal.
It’s easy to criticize the Mavericks in hindsight. But Brunson was coming off an underwhelming 2021 postseason. Despite proving himself as one of the NBA’s better backups last season, he looked to small at times in Dallas’ first-round loss to the Clippers. If signing the extension after Aug. 8, Brunson would’ve been ineligible to be dealt before the trade deadline. Though the Mavericks obviously didn’t trade him, we don’t know what trade possibilities they had cooking.
Now, Brunson will be a free agent and can draw offers from not only Dallas but also the Knicks, Pacers and any other team. It’ll cost the Mavericks way more to keep him.
Ideally for the Mavericks, they would’ve realized in January they weren’t going to trade Brunson and signed him to the extension then. He was already playing well enough to deserve it. By February, it had become too clear to him that he should wait for free agency, when he can draw any salary up to the max.
Just a case of the timing never being right for both sides. We’ll see whether Dallas and Brunson get on the same page this summer.