New York finally has a franchise point guard after struggling for years to find one.
After a decent 2020-21 regular season but uninspiring playoffs, the Dallas Mavericks decided not to extend a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension to Brunson.
They decided to extend the offer after the trade deadline, but at that point, Brunson had played his way into more money.
When free agency opens on Thursday, the New York Knicks are expected to present Jalen Brunson a four-year offer in the vicinity of $110 million, league sources tell @YahooSports.
— Chris Haynes (@ChrisBHaynes) June 29, 2022
Brunson was one of the top performers in last year’s playoffs.
He averaged 21.6 points per game while helping power the Mavericks to a Western Conference Finals appearance.
Dallas could have locked up Doncic’s sidekick for the foreseeable future but instead never got the opportunity to re-sign him.
Brunson signed with his hometown team the minute free agency started.
Now he will be tasked with leading an NBA franchise.
The Knicks have made the playoffs once in the past nine years and they will be looking to Brunson to break the skid.
Mandatory Mitchell Acknowledgement
Before we discuss whether Brunson is enough to lead the Knicks to the playoffs, we must mention Donovan Mitchell.
The Utah Jazz traded Rudy Gobert this offseason and appear to be headed towards a rebuild.
New York is the one team most linked to any trade for Mitchell and has the best shot at landing the All-Star guard.
The Jazz want a "significant" upgrade from what the Knicks are currently offering for Donovan Mitchell, per @ShamsCharania
The Knicks have offered Evan Fournier, Obi Toppin and five first-round picks for Mitchell pic.twitter.com/EH0LVviN5s
— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) August 22, 2022
There is still plenty of time before the season begins for a trade to be worked out.
Shams Charania of The Athletic recently reported that “the Knicks are motivated to acquire Mitchell.”
All of this is to say Brunson may not need to carry the Knicks.
By the start of the season, he may slide into a role more similar to that he filled in Dallas – playing alongside another star scoring guard.
For this article, however, we will act as though the Knicks will not have Mitchell heading into next year.
It will be Brunson’s team to lead into the promised land.
Closer Look at Brunson’s Career
Brunson has, by all accounts, been a solid NBA player across four years for the Mavericks.
He’s appeared in 277 career games with 127 starts, 61 of which came last season and averaged 24.7 minutes per game.
Brunson has career averages of 11.9 points, 3.7 assists, and 3.0 rebounds per game.
He shoots 49.4% from the field, 37.3% from three, and 80% from the line.
His true shooting percentage of 58% is very good and his +1.8 EPM (Estimated Plus/Minus) puts him in the 85th percentile league-wide.
However, most of his impact comes on the offensive end.
Brunson is a steady ball handler who can penetrate the defense and finish in the lane.
He is also a capable three-point shooter but could improve in that area by increasing his volume (career 2.7 attempts per game).
Because he is undersized, Brunson is not the staunchest of defenders, as evidenced by his -0.3 Defensive EPM.
He also has a career usage percentage of 20.6%.
The 21.9% mark he hit this past season was a career-high, ranking 68th in the league.
Brunson will most likely see his usage rate jump up into the 25-28% range, so it remains to be seen if the efficiency carries over.
Especially now that he will not be playing alongside a player with the gravity that Doncic has.
Can He Elevate The Knicks?
On his own, Brunson is not talented enough to carry the Knicks.
He will certainly elevate their level of play and make them a more serious playoff contender in the Eastern Conference.
However, it will be on Brunson to make their life easier.
— SLAM (@SLAMonline) August 18, 2022
Without a true point guard on the team, the Knicks have not had anybody to set up and run their offense.
Barrett, Randle, and others have been forced to try and create a lot of their own offense.
While Randle had an incredible 2020-21 season, he was not able to replicate it in 2021-22.
Mainly because it happened on an unsustainable shot selection of contested mid-range jumpers.
Brunson will be tasked with setting the table for the rest of the team.
Getting them open looks at the basket that are more feasible to knock down at a high rate.
Brunson alone cannot carry the Knicks to the playoffs.
But he can elevate those around them to make their task easier.