NBA

NBA Free Agency: Options if Jalen Brunson chooses to leave Dallas

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On Monday, we discussed the opportunity cost of handing a blank check to Jalen Brunson. Today we’re covering some options in case Brunson or the team decides to part ways.
There are, in my opinion, two main options:

Option 1: empty the bridge

If Brunson walked for some reason, it would give the Mavericks the opportunity to clear the deck and hit the reset button.

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Trade of the Mavericks – Tim Hardaway Jr./Davis Bertans/Josh Green

Lakers Trade – Russell Westbrook

Why would the Lakers do it? They get two to three rotation players. Hardaway Jr. and Bertans’ ability to space the floor around Lebron and Anthony Davis would be a breath of fresh air for the Lakers. They could also keep their 2027 pick and tie it to THJ or Bertans in a later move. The biggest hurdle to a Westbrook trade is finding a team with the matching salary needed to make the money work. Breaking Westbrook’s deal into two smaller ones opens up a litany of options for the Lakers.

Why would the Mavs do it? Bertans was the 7th man in the playoffs and was forced into action due to a lack of other credible options. Hardaway Jr’s shot helps but he would be a liability in defense. The Mavericks’ improved D relies on the ability to make sonic defensive rotations and contain dribble penetration. Hardaway Jr. struggles in both areas. In the long run, this would free up a ton of ceiling space in the summer of 2023.

  • Mavericks reportedly sign Luka and Dorian Finney-Smith to long-term deals
  • Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock would enter the last year of their agreements
  • The Mavericks would have full bird rights over Christian Wood and have the option to resign him for a market value contract

Once the 2023 draft is complete, the Mavericks could pack Dinwiddie and Bullock with picks once the final pick due to the Knicks is passed. They could also decide to bring both players into the season depending on how they play in 2022-23. If Christian Wood’s situation doesn’t work out, they could waive his rights and have up to 40 million cap space to go star hunting. A Luka/Dinwiddie/DFS/Bullock/Star Player X core would likely have more advantages than the current roster.

Of course, this plan would hinge on the Maverick’s ability to lure a non-star agent. Keep in mind that the Mavericks had a commitment from Chris Paul and Dwight Howard before Howard messed up everything by opting out of his contract with the Magic. If Paul and Howard join Dallas at the height of their powers, we likely look at the past decade very differently. Additionally, Dallas hired Nico Harrison due to his influence and connections in the league. Free will would be the time to allow this influence to bear fruit. Finally, the situation in Dallas is quite different this time around. Players then had to decide if signing up to play with an aging superstar in Dirk was worth it. Now the Mavericks have a superstar who has yet to reach his physical peak. It’s a much easier sale.

Option 2: sign and exchange

Trade of the Mavericks – Jalen Brunson

Knicks Trade – Cam Reddish, Nerlens Noel and the Mavericks 2023 1st Round Pick

Why would the Knicks do it? As things stand, the Knicks don’t have enough cap space to give Brunson a contract starting at $25 million a year. They tried to trade Evan Fournier but couldn’t find a buyer for him. The Thunder are always willing to accept a bad salary, but will almost certainly ask for a first-round pick to do so. Due to the years remaining on Fournier’s contract, a 1st-round pick might not be enough. The Reddish/Thibodeaux marriage has failed and his departure from New York seems imminent.

Why would the Mavericks do it? We would get our first-round pick back and we would have immediate access to all of our future draft picks. If a star were to become available, we would be able to match other teams in terms of draft capital. Reddish is simply a lottery ticket. If he plays well, you can move him to the deadline. If he doesn’t, you can just pass after the season. More importantly, the Mavericks would be in the best position to trade for a superstar in a long time.

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