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3 Reasons The Knicks Should Not Give Jalen Brunson A Max Deal

Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks celebrates his three point shot in the first half against the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2022 in New York City.
(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

 

The New York Knicks are widely expected to acquire Jalen Brunson once free agency begins Thursday.

Recent reporting has the estimated deal coming in at 4 years, $110 million.

However, there are rumors based on recent trades made by the Knicks that Brunson could be offered closer to the max.

Kemba Walker and his $9 million was offloaded to the Detroit Pistons on draft night.

And Nerlens Noel and Alec Burks were also sent to the Pistons this past Tuesday.

Those two combined to make $19 million, giving the Knicks right around $29 million in cap space entering free agency.

It would not be a wise move to offer Brunson a max offer to use up all that available room.

Here are three reasons why the Knicks should not throw the bag at the former second-round pick.

 

3. Is Brunson Worth It?

Brunson is a talented player.

John Hollinger’s BORD$ valuation pegs him at just under $30 million annually.

A BORD$ valuation is Hollinger’s attempt at estimating what a player will be worth for the upcoming season based on past performance and projections for the next year.

At just under $30 million, Brunson was seventh on the BORD$ list – a borderline All-Star player.

But does that justify the Knicks paying him like an All-Star?

Brunson is coming off a breakout regular season and phenomenal postseason.

The regular season saw him enter the starting rotation regularly and averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game on .502/.373/.840 shooting splits.

He topped those come playoff time, going for 21.6 points and 3.7 assists per game on .466/.347/.800.

But could Brunson replicate those numbers without having the gravity of Luka Doncic next to him?

Lineups that featured both Brunson and Doncic had a +4.1 net rating across 2,562 possessions.

That included five lineups that featured at least 100 possessions together, with four of them containing a positive net rating.

For lineups that feature Brunson without Doncic, the net rating remained steady at +4.1.

However, there was not a single lineup that was used for more than 100 possessions together.

The small sample size makes it tough to draw a firm conclusion.

And of the four lineups that saw at least 80 possessions together, three of them had a negative net rating.

Brunson put together a solid season but did so playing alongside one of the greatest players in the league.

It is unknown if he will continue his stellar play next to a weaker supporting cast.

 

2. Knicks Need Stars

Outside of a strict talent evaluation, how does Brunson fit with the Knicks’ roster?

As Hollinger pointed out, the Mavericks and Knicks rosters are constructed very differently.

The Mavericks would consistently deploy four shooters around Brunson.

New York, on the other hand, will feature mostly non-shooters around Brunson.

Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, and Mitchell Robinson are not considered threats from the perimeter.

Will Brunson have enough room to operate?

Secondly, does Brunson significantly increase the Knicks’ chances of contending for a title?

Stars win in the NBA, and the Knicks lack a true centerpiece.

Brunson will be 26 next season and does not project to make the leap into stardom.

Randle is 27 and while he has made an All-Star team, is too reliant on mid-range jump shots.

Barrett represents their best chance to have a true star on the roster.

But to this point, he has not shown enough to hint at true superstar development.

Brunson is a talented NBA player but not at the level that he will elevate those around him.

A core of Brunson, Barrett, Randle, and Robinson is solid, but not one that can realistically compete for a title.

 

1. 2023 Offseason Should Be Prioritized

The details on how Brunson is acquired have yet to be worked out.

And the details will make big changes to how the Knicks’ cap sheet is structured for next season and beyond.

However it shakes out, New York will have less cap space than they could have had.

Which could be significant given the potential talent level of next year’s crop of free agents.

LeBron James, James Harden, Khris Middleton, and Kyrie Irving are just a few names who could be available.

While there is no guarantee the Knicks would be in the running for those names, the potential is greater than this season.

Any one of those four would be a significant upgrade over Brunson and make New York true contenders.

Previous moves hinted at New York preparing to do just that.

Walker would be off the books, Noel, Burks, and Derrick Rose all had club options, and Evan Fournier would have only one guaranteed year remaining.

The only guaranteed money would have been Randle’s $25.7 million and contract extensions for Barrett and Robinson.

Even if Barrett received the max (5-years, $185 million; starting salary of $32 million) and Robinson receives the reported 4-year, $60 million contract, the Knicks would have had roughly $72 million committed.

With an estimated salary cap of $128 million, New York would have been sitting on roughly $50 million in space.

And with the ability to go over the cap to re-sign Barrett, they could have made runs at two max players.

Punting on a chance, however small, to bring in two superstars a year from now to acquire Brunson now would be a misstep.




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