NBA free agency officially opens Thursday at 6 p.m. ET, but it's likely a lot of news will leak out before then, and according to multiple reports it's all but a certainty that Dallas Mavericks point guard Jalen Brunson will sign as an unrestricted free agent with the New York Knicks on a four-year, $110 million deal. The SportsLine Projection Model (see below) has run sims with the Knicks adding Brunson and the Mavericks losing him.
In a way, the Mavericks are being penalized for their terrific draft choice of Brunson in the 2018 second round because second-rounders don't have a rookie fifth-year option teams can pick up. Dallas opted not to offer Brunson a max contract entering the 2021-22 season and apparently will now lose him for nothing. Brunson declined the Mavericks' offer of a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension after the trade deadline.
The former Villanova star averaged 16.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds during the regular season and 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in the playoffs as Dallas reached the Western Conference Finals. Brunson definitely earned millions of dollars with his postseason play.
The Knicks cleared up the requisite cap space to sign Brunson on Tuesday by agreeing to trade center Nerlens Noel and guard Alec Burks to the Detroit Pistons. The move afforded New York $19 million in cap relief. The Knicks included two future second-round picks and $6 million to incentivize the trade and now have about $30 million in cap space.
While the Mavericks can offer Brunson a fifth year and other teams can't, Brunson has major ties to the Knicks. Team president Leon Rose's first player client when he was an agent was Jalen's father Rick Brunson, and Rose represented Jalen at the beginning of his career. The Knicks agreed to hire Rick Brunson as an assistant coach this summer. He previously worked as an assistant under Tom Thibodeau with the Bulls and Timberwolves.
New York badly needs a point guard and Brunson will be able to run the show with the Knicks, while the Mavericks will always be Luka Doncic's team. In the 17 games Doncic missed last regular season, Brunson averaged 20.4 points and 7.5 assists as Dallas went 8-9 without Doncic.
Sportsbooks haven't released 2022-23 NBA win totals or playoff odds yet but should relatively soon after the main free agency flurry. The SportsLine Projection Model bumps the Knicks from 38.1 wins to 40.1 with the addition of Brunson and improves the team's playoff chances from 30.2 percent to 42.2 percent (equates to about +140 on the moneyline).
Dallas drops from 51.3 wins to 49.0 and its playoff chances fall from 93.5 percent to 85.4 (-585).
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