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Jalen Brunson ‘widely expected’ to sign lucrative Knicks deal: report

Dallas Mavericks guard Jalen Brunson, left, drives to the basket against Phoenix Suns forward Cameron Johnson (23) during the first half of Game 1 in the second round of the NBA Western Conference playoff series Monday, May 2, 2022, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Matt York)

NEW YORK — Jalen Brunson is getting closer to joining his friends and family on the Knicks.

The Mavericks point guard is “widely expected” to sign with New York on a four-year deal exceeding $100 million, according to ESPN. A source said the Mavericks were still in play since they can give Brunson more money as the incumbent team, but the draw of playing as the lead guard is enticing for Brunson — which he can’t do next to Luka Doncic in Dallas — and the Knicks are willing to offer more than market value.

Brunson has fans with the Mavericks but isn’t the most natural fit with Doncic, considering their defensive limitations. Meanwhile, at least one top Knicks decision-maker views Brunson as a top-10 NBA point guard, according to a source in contact with the organization. That’s hardly an instant road to title contention but would certainly plug a large hole in the lineup.

As it stands, the Knicks have $18 million in cap space and are engaged in trade discussions to create more. Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel have been shopped the most aggressively, according to sources from three opposing teams.

Signing Brunson to such a lucrative contract will certainly open the front office to heavy criticism if it flops. Until Brunson’s breakthrough in the playoffs, his value was widely viewed as, at most, $20 million per year in free agency. Just before last season, the Mavericks declined to offer a four-year, $55 million extension.

But the Knicks have long coveted Brunson and are certainly familiar. His father, Rick, was recently hired as an assistant coach under Tom Thibodeau. Rick was also the first NBA client of former agent Leon Rose, who now runs the Knicks and recently attended Rick’s 50th birthday party.

Leon Rose’s son, Sam, became an agent and represents Jalen Brunson. In other words, if Brunson’s deal goes sour, Leon Rose would be rightfully lambasted for taking care of friends with James Dolan’s money instead of helping his employer. If it works out, Rose will get the credit for his intuition and connections.

First, the Knicks have to create the space and get the signature. If the Mavericks are resigned to losing Brunson, they can help the Knicks — and help themselves — by facilitating a sign-and-trade.

The Brunson pursuit was set in motion on draft night, when the Knicks punted their first-round pick for future assets and more cap space by shedding Kemba Walker. The Knicks, according to sources, could’ve packaged a deal for guard Jaden Ivey during the draft by picking Jalen Duren but balked at the price and maintained focus on Brunson.

The Knicks only have one big free agent hitting the market this week — center Mitchell Robinson — who is expected to re-sign, according to NBA reporter Marc Stein. They also could extend RJ Barrett’s deal before next season.

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