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With no series of their own to take in, New York Knicks fans have been watching the Jazz-Mavericks matchup with keen interest. They’re not alone, either, as key Knicks personnel were spotted in Dallas, sitting courtside for Game 1.
The reason for all the attention: two of New York’s biggest potential targets — Donovan Mitchell and Jalen Brunson — have been duking it out on the hardwood.
Before the playoffs began, Mitchell was likely at the top of many fans’ wish lists, and rumor has it that Knicks VP William Wesley feels the same way. However, what Brunson has been able to accomplish through four playoff games has probably changed some minds.
The breakout guard is currently logging a 30-5-5 line while shooting 40.9% from three-point range.
Although Brunson’s sudden star turn makes him a more attractive candidate to assume the mantle of Knicks floor general, it has probably raised his price tag to a cumbersome level as well.
Rick Brunson: ‘No Discount’ Will Be Given
While Mitchell is a hometown hero from Westchester County, Brunson’s ties to the Knicks organization run deep. His father, Rick Brunson, is a former Knick and was one of team president Leon Rose’s early clients during his days as an agent. The elder Brunson also coached alongside Tom Thibodeau once upon a time.
As it happens, the elder Brunson spoke with ESPN’s Tim MacMahon recently and made it clear that the Mavs quarterback — who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer — won’t be cutting anyone any breaks on his next deal; not even Dallas.
“We’ve got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words,” Rick told ESPN. “Ain’t no discount. So don’t put it on us. Don’t tell me you love me. Show me.”
Had the Mavs sought to lock him up before the campaign (or even at mid-season), they may have been able to get that bargain rate. Instead, they rebuffed any talk of an extension, according to Rick, and now they find themselves in a quandary.
“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,” Rick said. “He didn’t turn s**t 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.’”
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Mavs Won’t Cooperate on Sign-and-Trade Deals
NBA scouts and execs polled by ESPN for MacMahon’s story projected a $20 million per year average as the floor for Brunson’s next contract. At the high end, those polled estimated an annual payout of around $25 million.
Given that forecast, the Knicks’ best avenue for acquiring Brunson from a cap standpoint would be via sign-and-trade. However, that option may not be available to them — or any team — as Dallas isn’t looking to deal him away. For New York, that means other moves would have to be made before the team could sign him.
The Knicks, who could give Brunson the opportunity to be a full-time primary ball handler, need to shed salary to have the flexibility to sign him but could feasibly create $20 million or more in cap space. League sources say the Mavs have no intention of cooperating in potential sign-and-trade scenarios.