Dallas’ search for a No. 2 next to Luka Doncic — which included trying to fit Kristaps Porzingis into that mold — finally settled this postseason on a guy the Mavericks drafted in the second round in 2018. Jalen Brunson may not be a classic Robin to Doncic’s Batman — and may not play that exact role in the future — but he did it brilliantly this postseason, averaging 21.6 points a game, scoring efficiently and taking over a couple of games against the Jazz Doncic had to miss.
Now the Mavericks have to keep him. Brunson is an unrestricted free agent due a healthy payday — four years, $90 million? — with New York, Detroit, Indiana and other teams looking to sign him away from Dallas.
On Friday, Mavericks’ President of Basketball Operations Nico Harrison made it clear keeping Brunson was the team’s top priority.
Mavericks GM Nico Harrison on Jalen Brunson's free agency: "It's the top priority. We've 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. We want him back. He'll be a big part of our future." pic.twitter.com/IMPVrRZKT2
— Michael Scotto (@MikeAScotto) May 27, 2022
More importantly, the guy with the ultimate say — and the one who signs the checks — sounded willing to do what it takes to keep Brunson in Dallas. Here is what Mark Cuban said after Game 5 on Thursday.
"We can pay him more than anybody…I think he wants to stay and that's most important."@mcuban talks to @TheSteinLine about the Mavericks chances of re-signing @jalenbrunson1 this offseason. pic.twitter.com/FnOV9LTagO
— Bally Sports Southwest (@BallySportsSW) May 27, 2022
Cuban touched on the only question that really matters — what does Brunson want?
On Friday, Brunson said he had not talked with his agent much about it, but also said how much he loved his teammates in Dallas and what they accomplished.
Brunson speaks. pic.twitter.com/GDOqg6DApO
— Brad Townsend (@townbrad) May 27, 2022
Dallas is considered to have the inside track to re-sign Brunson — he has a defined role and a comfort level with his teammates and organization. This is a team poised to chase rings for years. What other teams can try to pitch is a bigger role. For example, the Knicks need a point guard and floor general who will touch the ball almost every time down, while the Mavericks’ offense will remain centered around Doncic. (The Knicks remain a long shot to land Brunson because they need to do a sign-and-trade to get him, New York does not have the cap space to sign him, and Dallas is not going to play ball on that trade; Mitchell Robinson is not going to get it done.)
Ultimately, it will come down to money, and if Cuban is willing to pay fair market value, Brunson likely remains a Maverick. But the rumors will not stop until the ink dries on the contract.