The New York Knicks saga with Jalen Brunson is strange
The New York Knicks held the No. 11 overall pick in Thursday night’s draft. They walked away without a first-round selection, four fewer second-round picks and Kemba Walker in return for three conditional future first-round picks and second-round pick Trevor Keels.
On the surface, that might not sound like the worst draft outcome. Getting off Walker’s $9.2M contract was bound to happen heading into the offseason. Losing four second-rounders is, well, not negligible but certainly not the most startling development. But losing the first-round pick — and, way more importantly (in my opinion), the overall thought process of losing it — is the most ludicrous part.
Okay, stay with me here because this might get confusing quick.
Initially, the Knicks selected top international prospect Ousmane Dieng with the No. 11 pick and flipped him to the Oklahoma City Thunder for three conditional 2023 first-round picks — originally owned by the Denver Nuggets, Detroit Pistons and Washington Wizards.
New York subsequently traded the 2023 conditional first-rounder from Denver plus four seconds to the Charlotte Hornets for the 13th pick.
So the Knicks are now down four second-rounders while moving back from No. 11 and 13 with two more 2023 first-rounders than it before the draft. Get all that? Okay.
Wait, there’s more!
It then flips No. 13 — which ended up being Jalen Duren, a highly-touted center from Memphis — and Walker’s contract for the Bucks’ 2025 first-round pick.
In real time, it took fans and reporters at least a half hour to sort all of this out because ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski originally had Duren getting moved from Charlotte to the Pistons, while The Athletic’s Shams Charania had Duren heading to the Knicks. Nobody really knew anything so, naturally, it ultimately turning into chaos.
Not to mention, all of this also perpetuated the “What are the Knicks doing? Oh wait, they’re the New York Knicks, so bad stuff like this usually happens…” train wreck in our brains, which is never a good sign.
Where does Jalen Brunson factor into all this?
All of these transactions — attaching Duren to free up Kemba Walker’s salary; getting $18 million below the salary cap, etc.– was all done to presumably make a run at Jalen Brunson, who … they may not be able to sign anyways?
Let’s rewind a little bit.
The Knicks recently hired Jalen Brunson’s dad and trainer, Rick, as an assistant coach; Brunson has a previous connection with current Knicks point guard Derrick Rose, dating back to Rose’s days in Chicago; New York can still get off of Alec Burks and Nerlens Noel — who are set to make $10.0 million and $9.2 million in 2022-23, respectively — to free-up more cap space.
The seeds have been planted for landing Brunson. The cat is so far out of the bag that it’s probably walked to your next door neighbor’s house by now.
And they should try to get him! The 6-foot-1 point guard has been rock solid for Dallas.
Last season, he posted averages of 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 4.8 assists while shooting 50.2 percent from the floor, 37.3 percent from 3-point range and 84.0 percent from the charity stripe. In the playoffs, he averaged 21.6 points on 46.6/34.7/80.0 shooting splits — including a 41-point, eight-rebound, five-assist, six-3s performance in Game 2 of the opening round against the Utah Jazz sans Luka Doncic.
But Dallas owns Brunson’s bird rights and, if push comes to shove, might ultimately be the highest bidder for Brunson anyways. Money might not be the deciding factor anyways, but it’s worth mentioning. Dallas can 1.) Give Brunson eight percent raises on his year-to-year salary figure, a luxury that any other franchise can’t and 2.) Offer up to five years, giving him more financial security, while every other team can only offer four.
Given the financial hurdles Dallas would need to clear for a potential Brunson sign-and-trade because of what his outgoing base-year compensation would be if he signed between $20-30M makes it unlikely a S&T occurs. It’s feasible, but that means they’ll have to forfeit salary elsewhere to make it work. And I don’t think it’s wise to believe that making the team *considerably worse* under Luka Doncic’s watch is feasible. It’s not.
Dallas isn’t going to let Brunson walk for nothing — at least I don’t think they will — even if it carries them deep into the tax. I could be wrong and in the minority, but there’s little monetary value for Dallas letting Brunson go.
From the Knicks perspective, it makes sense to go after Brunson. But at what cost? Duren could’ve been the potential Mitchell Robinson replacement while Burks, Noel, Cam Reddish and Walker all could’ve been moved. Maybe there was no other way to get rid of Kemba’s contract without sacrificing the No. 13 pick, but I would’ve resorted to moving either of the other two first-round picks they acquired before No. 13.
New York’s draft-night moves made the Jalen Brunson saga even more perplexing than it already was, even with obtaining the future first-round picks. They might hit, rendering my entire argument pointless. Who knows?!
Anywho, Knicks fans had a whirlwind of a night. That is certain, for better or worse.
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