“I love [Brunson] in New York,” Garnett said on the latest episode of his Showtime Basketball show Ticket & the Truth with another former NBA player Matt Barnes. “He fits right. He’s perfect in New York.”
Brunson has been stellar in his first season with the Knicks, averaging career-highs in scoring (24.0), assists (6.2) and 3-point field goal percentage (41.6%). He’s among the top five clutch players this season.
His arrival dramatically improved the Knicks, who clinched the fifth seed in the East. On the flip side, his departure in Dallas left a gaping hole that sunk the Mavericks this season after reaching the Western Conference Finals last year.
“We didn’t give Brunson any credit for anything he’s done in Dallas,” Garnett said.
“Now, we see,” Barnes replied.
Luka Doncic said last week they miss Brunson a lot. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban went on the defensive after failing to lock up Brunson to a more favorable deal ($55.5 million, four years) before his stock rose exponentially after last season’s trade deadline. He blamed Brunson’s father, Rick, for the point guard’s exit in Dallas.
“Going into this [season], everyone thought the Knicks are crazy for giving Brunson [$104 million over four years],” Barnes said. “I think he’s underpaid with the money he got, but everyone was thinking like, ‘No, that money is too much.’ He definitely proved his worth, and as we said earlier, he’s made Julius Randle better just by taking some of the pressure off him.”
Brunson formed a lethal 1-2 punch combo with Randle, who leads the Knicks in scoring with a career-high 25.1 points per game, in rebounding (10.0 rebounds) and 3-points made with his 218 3s this season, ranking second all-time in franchise history.
But even with Brunson’s leap and leadership this season, Garnett believes the Knicks still need a veteran star that could vault them to true contention.
“I always wanted to see a guy like Chris Paul, a guy who was a very sure person, very confident but then who could orchestrate like when you got pieces like Randle, [RJ] Barrett, like Brunson,” Garnett said. “When you have people who can get it and got them jelly, and they go into the mix and all that, you need an orchestrator. You need an operator, someone who can ‘Hey, you get in the corner, you need to do that all right? Come up over the pick and roll.’
Barnes added: “Someone who makes sure everybody eats.”
“I’ve always wanted a guy like Chris Paul to go there where he could be like Thibs on the floor,” said Garnett referring to Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau, who was an assistant coach during his championship run in Boston. “The next thing I think the Knicks need is a true leader and a veteran that can come in and get them over the hump.”
Knicks Held Back From Trading for Chris Paul in 2020
The Knicks mulled over trading for Paul in 2020 before the Oklahoma City Thunder shipped the 12-time NBA All-Star point guard to the Phoenix Suns.
According to a Nov. 11, 2020 SNY report, “Some MSG people are wary of giving up too many assets in a Paul deal because they want to ensure that New York has enough capital in place for a future trade for another high-profile player.”
Paul has since led the Suns to one NBA Finals and is poised for another deep playoff run after they added two-time NBA champion Kevin Durant at the trade deadline.
Knicks Among Favorites to Land Luka Doncic if He Seeks Trade
The Paul-to-Knicks ship has already sailed.
But the Knicks are still in a great position to land a much younger superstar that fits their timeline, like Luka Doncic, who could ask out as early as next year, according to ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.
Meanwhile, according to Sam Quinn of CBS Sports, the Knicks are in the top tier of teams who could land Doncic should he ask for a trade amid the disappointment in Dallas.
“Picks are something the Knicks have in abundance. They’ll be able to offer seven unprotected picks and four swaps to Dallas in a Doncic deal, but perhaps more importantly, they have one of the few players likely to make an effective recruiting pitch to Doncic in Jalen Brunson,” Quinn wrote.