The Dallas Mavericks will have to replace their starting point guard, as Jalen Brunson has agreed to a four-year, $104 million deal with the New York Knicks.
Brunson’s agents, Aaron Mintz and Sam Rose of CAA Basketball, confirmed the news to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Thursday, just a few hours after NBA free agency officially opened at 6 p.m. ET.
The Mavericks had a planned meeting with Brunson on Thursday, but the meeting was called off as the players’ representatives notified the team that he had settled on the Knicks.
The loss of Brunson will be a significant loss for the Mavericks, as they do not have a straightforward way to replace him. Guard Spencer Dinwiddie performed well after arriving from the Washington Wizards in the Kristaps Porzingis trade, but the team’s backcourt depth is thin after him and All-NBA guard Luka Doncic.
Dallas will not be able to sign a free agent guard near Brunson’s level in free agency due to the team’s salary cap situation.
Brunson established himself as Dallas’ clear-cut second option last season behind Doncic, his 2018 draft classmate. He broke into the starting lineup for the first time in his career last December and finished the regular season averaging 16.3 points and 4.8 assists per game.
In the playoffs, Brunson showed he could perform in high-pressure situations, improving his regular-season numbers. He helped lead the Mavericks to the Western Conference finals for the first time in 11 years, averaging 21.6 points per game during the playoffs.
Brunson even proved his ability to be a team’s primary option with 41- and 31-point performances in first-round victories over the Utah Jazz while Doncic was out with a strained calf.
Brunson’s departure from Dallas to New York was widely anticipated for days, as the Knicks offered a more lucrative deal and a more significant role to show he could be a consistent primary option. New York also made a series of trades since draft night to open the necessary salary cap space to sign Brunson.
New York has a clear need for an upgrade at point guard, and Brunson was arguably the best unrestricted free agent available at the position.
He also has deep ties to the franchise. Brunson’s father, Rick Brunson, played for the Knicks in the late 90s and recently signed on as an assistant coach for the team. The elder Brunson previously served as an assistant to current Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.
The Knicks’ president, Leon Rose, is a prominent former agent whose first client was Rick Brunson. He also represented Jalen at the beginning of his professional career.
Brunson, 25, will hope to revitalize a New York franchise that has not won a playoff series in the past nine seasons. The team has earned only one playoff appearance during that span, during the 2020-21 season.
Mavericks governor Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison had ranked re-signing Brunson as the franchise’s top offseason priority.
The Mavericks were reportedly willing to offer Brunson a five-year contract with a similar annual value to the four-year, $85 million deal guard Fred VanVleet signed with the Toronto Raptors in 2020. However, they never got a chance to make an official contract offer after the league’s free-agent signing period opened.
Brunson previously declined a Dallas offer of a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension after the trade deadline in February. Dallas forward Dorian Finney-Smith signed an identical deal around the same time. However, Brunson was confident that he would make significantly more as a free agent.
Rick Brunson told ESPN during the playoffs that his son would have signed the $55 million deal with the Mavericks if it had been offered in January. Dallas decided to hold off on contract discussions until after the February trade deadline in case an opportunity to trade Brunson for another star arose. Players are ineligible to be traded for six months after signing a new contract.
By April, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported that sources around the NBA believed Brunson could command $20-25 million annually in free agency.
Rick Brunson told MacMahon that his son would not take less than his market value to remain in Dallas.
“We’ve got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words,” he said. “Ain’t no discount. So don’t put it on us. Don’t tell me you love me. Show me.”
Meanwhile, Dallas has agreed to sign center Javale McGee to a three-year, $20 million contract. The 34-year-old previously played for the Mavericks during the 2015-2016 season. He played for the Phoenix Suns last season.