Jalen Brunson is in the fourth season of his young career and will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. One could very easily argue that Brunson is the third best player on this team but the 25-year-old guard is currently the 13th highest-paid player on the Dallas Mavericks roster. Not very immaculate, right? Brunson stated earlier in the season that his agent (Andrew Morrison of CAA Sports) will take care of the contractual side of the situation while he focuses on helping the Mavericks win games but a change in salary can’t be completely out of his mind.
Given the type of contract Brunson is on, the Mavericks are able to offer him a vet extension for the remainder of the season. The most Mavericks are able to offer Brunson in an extension would be $55.56 million over 4 years. That figure equates to an average of $13.89 million per year, to date there has been little news that discussions have gained traction. Talks could be and an impasse due to this number being lower than Brunson could receive in the offseason if he waits. If he does end up waiting, Brunson and his team will have the opportunity to talk to other teams to glean his value across the league. Mavericks will then have the opportunity to pay more to re-sign the guard long-term due to having bird rights.
Brunson is the ultimate professional who succeeds in each role that has been asked of him. His ability to score at all three levels offensively and the skills to create for others, are two main traits teams look for in their point guards. Brunson makes up for his smaller size by being able to finish at the rim and use plethora of moves that help him get his shot off. Jalen has shown versatility by being able to play on-the-ball and off-the-ball, which is a luxury for a coach.
Brunson has been a huge part of the post-Dirk era for the Mavericks organization and one of the most consistent players on the team, which provides stability to the roster.
IS BRUNSON A STARTER OR 6TH MAN?
Through 32 games this season, Brunson is averaging 16.1 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.8 RPG while shooting 49.5% from the floor. He has been viewed as a scorer during his time in Dallas, but has the skills needed to be a playmaker as well. Brunson has shown he is more than capable of creating for others when Luka is out but the need is not as significant playing next to one of the best in the game.
“I play the cards I am dealt. Last year I kind of had to play more off ball when Luka Dončić is in the game. It’s just knowing when to score and when to make plays. Last year, we needed more of scoring. This year I am just trying to find ways to balance it, by not dropping how I can score the basketball. For me I am just reading what the defense is giving me. Passing, creating for others, some nights it’s going to be one-on-one.” Brunson says on being a scorer or playmaker.
Brunson is a core member of the team who provides the Mavericks flexibility of starting or come off the bench. He was fourth in the NBA 6th Man of tthe Year voting in 2020-21 season. Brunson has had to start more games than usual this season with injuries and players being out due to health and safety protocols.
Brunson as a starter (2021-22)
Brunson off the bench (2021-22)
“Whatever is needed for me to do, I am going to go out there and do it.” Brunson says to being a starter or come off the bench.
Brunson has a lot to think about this offseason, as he makes the biggest decision in his basketball career. A choice he hasn’t made since selecting Villanova over Illinois, Kansas, Michigan and other elite college basketball programs in the nation.
There is probably not a team in the league who would not love to have the services of a player like Jalen Brunson but let’s take a look at 5 teams that need him and will have the money to sign him as well.
Spotrac Projected Practical 2022 Offseason Cap Space: $-8.86 million (Brunson’s Bird Rights)
Role: Fluid (6th Man/Starter)
The Mavericks have Jalen Brunson’s bird rights. That means the organization can go over the salary cap to re-sign Brunson to a long-term deal. Brunson has the highest usage rate in his career this season, as Jason Kidd has provided more responsibility as a focal point in the offense.
“Coach (Kidd) has let me play and he’s let me do a lot. I am just trying to find ways to get guys more involved but at the same time not lose my aggressiveness.” Brunson says on the freedom and more usage under Jason Kidd.
Moving forward the Mavericks will be in a difficult position financially as they are over the salary cap. The salary cap for the 2020-21 season is $112.41 million and Sportrac has the Mavericks currently standing at $116.93 million this season in active cap. That number increases next season to $134.20 million and that doesn’t include Brunson and Dorian Finney-Smith, who will become unrestricted free agents this offseason. The Mavericks have bird rights for both players but the team will have to get creative financially to stay under the luxury tax.
When asked about Brunson earlier this season Jason Kidd stated, “(Brunson) could start in this league easily. So, to have that kind of weapon to come off the bench is big.”
So why doesn’t he start on the Mavericks? The secondary playmaker Mavs have been searching in the starting lineup next to Luka Dončić and Kristaps Porziņģis could already be on the roster. Dallas has to value him as that playmaker or another team will.
NEW YORK KNICKS
Spotrac Projected Practical 2022 Offseason Cap Space: $18.51 million
Role: Starter (Playmaker)
Brunson can provide Knicks the point guard they have been searching for years. Brunson would provide them a leader on the court who will provide stability and consistency to that franchise. Brunson isn’t afraid of the big stage as he doesn’t let the crowd impact his game. Brunson has said being in the zone is just reading what the defense gives him and New York would give him a place to showcase his playmaking ability surrounded by Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Evan Fournier and Mitchell Robinson and Robinson. The Knicks rank second worst in the league in assists per game.
SAN ANTONIO SPURS
Spotrac Projected Practical 2022 Offseason Cap Space: $41.99 million
Role: Starter (Leader)
Brunson would be a great match with Coach Popovich as he would provide the Spurs a high-IQ point guard to run the offense and efficiently score at all there levels on the offensive side of the court. He would fit the young core that is in the Spurs organization with Dejounte Murray, Jakob Poeltl and Keldon Johnson. Brunson also knows a thing about winning in San Antonio as he won a NCAA championship in 2018.
“I like playing in San Antonio.” Brunson stated post-game earlier this season after a game where the Mavs played Spurs.
Spotrac Projected Practical 2022 Offseason Cap Space: $39.36 million
Role: Starter (Secondary Playmaker)
The Pistons could provide Brunson a starting role and help this team compete again as Detroit is rebuilding. Pistons rank second to last in scoring per game and third to last in assists per game. With Brunson added to Cunningham, Saddiq Bey and Jerami Grant, they could build upon that core and expedite the team getting back to the playoffs. Brunson has shown he can play well with a ball-dominant guard in Luka Dončić, I think that fits the mold here in Detroit as they drafted the #1 pick in Cade Cunningham. Brunson would be one of the top scorers for this team with the opportunity of having consistent starting minutes. The former 2020 7th overall pick Killian Hayes at point guard hasn’t panned out for the Pistons so far in his career.
NEW ORLEANS PELICANS
Spotrac Projected Practical 2022 Offseason Cap Space: $15.50 million
Role: Starter (Scorer)
Pelicans have the money and opportunity to add Brunson to Brandon Ingram, Jonas Valanciunas and the eventual return of Zion Williamson. I think Brunson fits in New Orleans as they rank fourth to last in scoring and he can provide that as Ingram and Williamson are primary ball-handlers on the team. Brunson will elevate the talent while providing leadership the team can depend upon trying to get back to the playoffs.
Will the Mavericks pay up and re-sign Brunson to a huge long-term deal following the likes of Kristaps Porziņģis, Tim Hardaway Jr.? That is to be determined but someone will pay Brunson the salary he has earned as the 6’1″ guard is the 380th highest–paid player this season in the NBA this season.