Knicks’ reported pursuit of Jalen Brunson faces skepticism: ‘I’m not sure that moves the needle’
The New York Knicks will be among the teams under the microscope heading into the 2022 NBA offseason and after wheeling and dealing draft picks last week the spotlight is shining even brighter.
On draft night last week, New York traded the No. 11 pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for three future first-round picks, then acquired the No. 13 pick for five future picks and traded all that to the Detroit Pistons along with Kemba Walker to shed some salary cap. The team received a 2025 first-round pick via the Milwaukee Bucks.
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Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks brings the ball up court during the third quarter against the Golden State Warriors in Game Four of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals at American Airlines Center on May 24, 2022 in Dallas, Texas.
(Ron Jenkins/Getty Images)
The Knicks were able to shed some salary cap and secure 11 first-round and 11 second-round picks over the next seven years. All and all, the team appears to be set to pursue Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson in free agency.
According to ESPN, it is “widely anticipated” Brunson would sign with the Knicks on a four-year, $100 million deal once free agency opens later this week. But the Knicks will have to clear more salary cap to be able to afford Brunson.
Brunson, whose father Rick Brunson recently became an assistant on the Knicks, was a second-round pick of the Mavericks in 2018. He finally got a chance to start in 61 of 79 games he appeared in for Dallas last season and averaged 16.3 points, 4.8 assists and 3.9 rebounds
Former longtime NBA scout Michael Vandegarde called the Knicks’ draft-pick acquisitions “really interesting” but was more skeptical about going after Brunson.
Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks drives around Alec Burks #18 of the New York Knicks in the first half at Madison Square Garden on January 12, 2022 in New York City.
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“Obviously, there’s reports of that and if they do, then that was their plan all along to create that cap space and then they have some solid draft picks coming down the pipe and people are complaining about it but those protections keep getting more favorable to the Knicks down the road. Eventually, they’re gonna get some really good draft picks from my understanding,” Vandegarde told Fox News Digital.
“I really like Jalen Brunson but to create cap space just for Jalen Brunson, I’m not sure that moves the needle. Let’s say best case scenario you get him, it doesn’t change your franchise for the future. That just puts you in the middle. I don’t think that dramatically alters anything for the Knicks, which I don’t understand. If you were doing it for a bad deal or a couple of years ago you still thought Russell Westbrook was the guy… I can understand it doing it for a superstar but Jalen Brunson isn’t that.”
Vandegarde, who was a scout for the Philadelphia 76ers for nearly two decades and is now working with the digital training program CoachTube, said he would be “disappointed” if Brunson was the end game for the Knicks.
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“I don’t know if they’re playing the long-term game but I hope in the draft things turn out better and they just didn’t like anybody at No. 11 or they’re really playing this Jalen Brunson cap-space game. And if they are, then I’d be disappointed if that’s what they’
Jalen Brunson #13 of the Dallas Mavericks dribbles the ball during Game 4 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors on May 24, 2022 at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
(Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images)
re really playing. I would like to think there’s something else going on that just no one knows about.”
New York is under pressure to get back to the playoffs after an underwhelming 2021-22 season. The team made the playoffs in 2020-21 for the first time in eight years but followed up with a 37-45 record.
With Brunson in the backcourt alongside R.J. Barrett and Julius Randle, the Knicks would at least be able to look like a playoff team on paper. But the Eastern Conference is getting tighter.
The Cleveland Cavaliers would’ve made the top six last season if it weren’t for a late-season losing streak that put them into the play-in tournament in which they would lose to the Brooklyn Nets and Atlanta Hawks – both teams who have also been championship contenders.
The Knicks finished six games behind the Charlotte Hornets for the 10th spot.
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But don’t look now. Vandegarde said within the next 3-5 years the Detroit Pistons could have the best backcourt in the NBA, which could also mean another potential threat to the Knicks in their hopes of ending their championship drought.