The New York Knicks have finally found the point guard that they have long been searching for with Jalen Brunson reportedly committed to join them. Unfortunately, in what has become typical Knicks fashion over the past few decades, their desperation for a quick fix may have gotten the best of them once again.
Brunson’s new four-year, $104 million deal is quite a steep price to pay considering that the 25-year-old guard has yet to demonstrate over an extended period of time that he can handle the responsibilities that come with being a team’s primary floor general.
Dallas was said to have been ready to offer a five-year, $106 million contract, but their meeting with Brunson did not even push through when it was apparent that they could not come close to what New York was ready to offer their prized guard.
While this is widely perceived around the league as an over-pay, what the Knicks have going for them is that Brunson seems to have a knack for exceeding expectations.
Brunson was originally a second round pick of the Mavericks in the same 2018 NBA Draft where Luka Doncic was picked third overall. He quickly gained momentum as a solid back-up point guard in his first three years in the league before finding his way to Dallas’ starting line-up last year.
The ‘21-’22 regular season saw Brunson start 61 of the 79 games that he played and he went on to average a solid yet rather unspectacular 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 assists per game. He then took things up by a notch further in the playoffs where he shined in their first few games as the focal point for the Mavericks while Doncic was sidelined by a late season injury.
Brunson broke out on the national stage for Dallas, averaging 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.7 assists in 18 playoff games. He effectively priced himself out from remaining with the team moving forward, especially when it became apparent that New York was interested in his services.
The Knicks were far from mum as they sent members of their front office to watch Brunson and the Mavericks in person during the recently concluded postseason and hired his father, Rick, as one of their assistant coaches.
The 6’1 guard now has a chance to prove that he can run his own show and his recent performance in last season’s playoffs is a reason for optimism that he can live up to the lofty expectations that come with his pricey contract. However, the reality of playing in New York is that one often has to compete with his own team as much as the opponent.
Brunson will have to make do without the benefit of the floor spacing that he enjoyed in Dallas which accentuated his ability to get to the basket. With New York, he will have to find a way to share the floor with their current mainstays, Julius Randle and RJ Barrett, who are both at their best when attacking the basket or operating from midrange. Like Brunson, they are also left-handed which may further complicate the efficiency of their offensive attack.
Aside from these redundancies between the Knicks’ three best players, it does not help that they are all average three-point shooters at best which will inevitably allow opposing defenses to clog the lane. This will be a crucial challenge for their head coach Tom Thibodeau to overcome and may very well determine the success of this latest iteration of their once great franchise.
The offseason is still young and there may still be many changes on the horizon for New York to help ease Brunson’s fit with this team. Though they clearly overpaid to acquire him, this is a gamble that is worth taking for a team that has not had long-term stability at the point guard position for several years now.
The belief is that Brunson can be their guy moving forward and if his attitude during his first four years in the league is any indication, then it is safe to expect that he will do everything that he can to show that he deserves his new contract. For a Knicks franchise that has toiled between mediocrity and futility for more than 20 years now, this is a rare reason for hope–hope that they can finally end this vicious cycle and return to prominence.