The pain of the Dallas Mavericks allowing Jalen Brunson to leave for the Knicks seems to get worse every day. As Brunson and the Knicks are thriving, the Mavericks, after a desperate play to trade for Kyrie Irving, are spiraling way out of contention and perhaps into the lottery.
Now Brunson is twisting the knife even deeper.
In an interview with Bleacher Report's Chris Haynes, Brunson revealed that he wanted to stay for the long haul with the Mavericks, who reportedly could've had him for half of what he got from the Knicks.
Prior to the 2021-22 season, he was eligible for a four-year, $55.5 million extension. It was an offer Brunson's camp would have accepted if the Mavericks made it, sources tell B/R. In January 2022, his representatives tried to initiate dialogue on getting a deal done, but the Mavericks resisted.
Brunson began cementing himself as the second-best player on the team behind Luka Dončić. And after the February trade deadline, the team contacted Brunson about agreeing to the same four-year, $55.5 million extension Dorian Finney-Smith had just signed. At that point, it was clear that the guard's value in free agency would be worth exponentially more if he tested the market.
Brunson recalled how the matter played out.
"There were two times that I thought we had offers on the table before the season, and then around, I think December or January, they looked the other way," Brunson said. "They had every right in the world to do so. I don't blame them for making any business decisions. That's on them."
And this was the killer:
"... I wanted that role of being with the Mavericks for the long haul of my career," Brunson said. "I truly loved that place."
To recap: Brunson wanted to stay in Dallas for $55M over four years, and the Mavericks didn't think he was worth that. Had they gotten him at that price, they would arguably have the best contract in the league on their books right now and be a much better team to boot.
They wouldn't have had to trade Dorian Finney-Smith, which cratered their defense, for Irving, who, relatively speaking, was basically brought in to fill the hole left by Brunson.
To be fair, the Mavericks weren't the only ones wondering what, exactly, they had in Brunson. Everyone, to some degree, questioned whether Brunson was capable of being an All-Star player as a No. 1 guy, without the cushion of playing next to Luka Doncic.
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That said, even if Brunson had remained the same second-fiddle, 18 PPG scorer that he was with Dallas, the Mavericks could've had him for less than $14M annually. That still would've been a huge bargain. But now that the guy is an All-Star (I don't care that he didn't technically make the team; he's an All-Star), this looks disastrous. Fact is, the $104M the Knicks paid for Brunson looks like a bargain. Imagine having him for half that.
For the record, Brunson is averaging career highs in scoring (23.8), assists (6.2), 3-point attempts (4.7), makes (1.9) and percentage (41.1). He's doubled his free-throw frequency.
Since Jan. 1, Brunson is averaging just under 28 PPG on 45% 3-point shooting. Over that span, the Knicks, who have climbed to the East's No. 5 seed, register as the third-best offense in the league.
You can question whether Brunson would've been unlocked to this degree playing alongside the ball-dominant Doncic. But there's absolutely no question as to whether he would've been a steal at $55M. Dallas messed this up royally. And they know it.