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Possible options in case Jalen Brunson opts to leave Dallas in free agency

Jalen Brunson’s departure may set the organization up to make a hugh splash down the road.

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at New York Knicks Andy Marlin-USA TODAY Sports

On Monday we discussed the opportunity cost of handing Jalen Brunson a blank check. Today, we cover some options in case either Brunson or the team decides to part ways.
There are, as I see it, two main options:

Option 1: Clear the Deck

Should Brunson walk for whatever reason, it would present the Mavericks the opportunity to clear the deck and press the reset button.

Mavericks Trade - 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’d also be able to keep their 2027 pick and attach it to either THJ or Bertans in a subsequent move. The biggest impediment 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 postseason and was forced into action due to a lack of other credible options. Hardaway Jr’s shooting helps but he would be a liability on defense. The Mavericks’ improved D relies on the ability to make sound defensive rotations and contain dribble penetration. Hardaway Jr. struggles in both areas. Long term, it would free up a ton of cap space in the summer of 2023.

  • Mavericks would have Luka and Dorian Finney-Smith signed to long-term deals
  • Spencer Dinwiddie and Reggie Bullock would be entering the last year of their deals
  • Mavericks would have full bird right’s on Christian Wood and have the ability to resign him to a market value contract

After the 2023 draft is over, the Mavericks could package Dinwiddie and Bullock with picks once the final pick owed to the Knicks has conveyed. They could also decide to take both players into the season depending on how they play in 2022-2023. If the Christian Wood situation doesn’t work out, they could relinquish his rights and have as much as 40 million in cap space to go star hunting with. A Luka/Dinwiddie/DFS/Bullock/Star Player X core would probably have more upside than the current roster.

Of course, this plan would rely on the Maverick’s ability to lure a star-free agent. Keep in mind, the Mavericks had a commitment from both Chris Paul and Dwight Howard before Howard ruined everything by opting into his contract with the Magic. If Paul and Howard join Dallas at the peak of their powers, we probably look at the last decade a lot differently. Also, Dallas hired Nico Harrison because of his influence and connections around the league. Free agency would be the time to allow that influence to bear fruit. Lastly, the situation in Dallas is much different this time around. Players then had to decide whether signing up to play with an aging superstar in Dirk was worthwhile. Now, the Mavericks have a superstar who has yet to reach his physical peak. It’s a much easier sell.

Option 2: Sign and Trade

Mavericks Trade - Jalen Brunson

Knicks Trade - Cam Reddish, Nerlens Noel and the Mavericks 2023 1st round pick

Why would the Knicks do it? As it stands, the Knicks do not have enough cap space to give Brunson a contract starting at $25 million a year. They tried to trade Evan Fournier but were unable to find a taker for him. The Thunder are always ready to take on bad salary but will almost certainly ask for a 1st round pick in order to do so. Because of the years left on Fournier’s contract, one 1st round pick may not be enough. The Reddish/Thibodeaux marriage failed and his departure from New York seems imminent.

Why would the Mavericks do it? We would get our first-round pick back and have immediate access to all of our future draft picks. Were a star to become available, we’d 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 at the deadline. If he doesn't, you can simply move on after the season. More importantly, the Mavericks would be in the best position to trade for a superstar in a long time.