The smart money is on Jalen Brunson re-signing with Mavericks to play next to Luka Doncic next season. If there had been any questions about his value to the franchise, these playoffs have answered them. Dallas knows it has to pay up this summer.
That’s not going to stop other teams — in a down free agent market, multiple teams will make a run at Brunson. A couple of them can offer the ball in his hands more than it will be in Dallas, where Luka is — and should be — the No. 1 option.
The teams expected to make a run are the New York Knicks, Indiana Pacers, and Detroit Pistons, reports Jack Fischer at Bleacher Report.
The Knicks executives’ controversial appearance in Dallas [World Wide Wes and Julius Randle were courtside for the first game of the postseason] also raised eyebrows because of the expectation that New York will aggressively pursue Mavericks ball-handler Jalen Brunson as an unrestricted free agent. One source with knowledge of the Knicks front office even suggested to B/R that New York’s efforts before the February trade deadline were primarily geared toward freeing ample cap space to offer Brunson a competitive contract this July.
But word of the Detroit Pistons’ interest in pairing Brunson with Rookie of the Year finalist Cade Cunningham, similar to how Brunson has thrived alongside Dallas’ supersized point-forward Luke Doncic, has been as persistent as the Knicks’ rumored desire for Brunson.
The Indiana Pacers, who hired former Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle last offseason, are another team known to have interest in Brunson’s services.
Besides money, the Knicks can offer the chance to start and be the guy with the ball, setting up RJ Barrett and Randle. The Knicks will offer Brunson the keys to the car; they desperately needed a floor general this season and Brunson will be offered that role.
Indiana also will offer a significant role, particularly if they trade Malcolm Brogdon (something they are expected to explore). A Brunson and Tyrese Haliburton backcourt would be a good foundation, with Myles Turner up front and Buddy Hield knocking down shots on the wing.
Would Brunson want out of Dallas to accept that same secondary role on a rebuilding Pistons team? Detroit will have to outbid its competitors by a lot to grab Brunson’s interest.
Brunson averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists a game, and while he can play off the ball he has shown this postseason his value as a secondary shot creator. Nobody has noticed more than in Dallas, which is why it is expected he will re-sign with the Mavericks.
But other teams will shoot their shot.