Another off-season, another chance for the New York Knicks to resolve their long-standing point guard issue.
Last season, the front office tried to finesse the system by bringing in Kemba Walker on a team-friendly deal, hoping that the former All-Star guard could recapture his best form for his hometown team. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned, and it would be shocking if we saw Walker return to the team again next season.
Sure, Immanuel Quickley has flashed some good upside, but he’s projecting more as a combo guard than a straight-up point guard, so that doesn’t solve many of New York’s issues. Miles McBride is still raw and will need time, while Derrick Rose spent most of the season on the injury report.
As such, the Knicks will likely be looking around for another new point guard this off-season, either via free agency or a trade. According to Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the Knicks have an interest in Jalen Brunson of the Dallas Mavericks and will likely do everything in their power to acquire him once his contract expires at the end of the season.
“The Knicks have been open to discussing the majority of their roster in varying capacities dating back to the 2021 draft. They are expected to target the point guard market particularly, with Jalen Brunson is widely known to be at the top of New York’s wishlist,” Fischer wrote.
Brunson Looking for Big Payday
Brunson might be the best guard on the free-agent market this off-season, but he’s also going to be one of the most expensive. According to Bleacher Reports Eric Pincus, the 25-year-old guard is going to be asking for a salary in the region of $20 million per year.
However, Brunson may struggle to receive offers of that value, as the guard is a limited defender, and while teams can hide defensively weak guards in the regular season, they become a target once the post-season rolls around.
“Brunson faces a similar market, but the guard is believed by many to be seeking near a four-year, $80 million contract. That is a large number, especially for a player that several competing executives think is too big of a target defensively in the playoffs,” Pincus wrote.
It will be interesting to see if the Knicks make the necessary moves to open up their cap sheet to acquire Brunson – because there’s no doubt he would be a huge upgrade for a team that has been screaming out for a talented guard but has continually failed to resolve the issue.
Brunson Isn’t a Thibodeau Type of Player
The biggest issue the Knicks will face in acquiring Brunson isn’t his contract, but rather, convincing head coach Tom Thibodeau that he will be a valuable addition. Thibodeau, 64, is well-known to be a defensively-minded coach and has regularly limited weak defenders’ minutes.
So, unless Brunson is willing to improve his game on that end of the floor, there could be some early-season friction between player and coach. Thibodeau is known to be abrasive with his players, especially ones who can’t conform to his style of play, and that could be off-putting to a guard who is trying to find a long-term home where he can contribute towards sustained success.
However, the Knicks sent a message last off-season when they signed Walker and Evan Fournier. That message was that the front office believed in the defensive core they have put together, but understood the team needed additional fire-power, and with little turnover through the season, that same defensive core is still in place.
Brunson fits the bill of an offensive minded guard who could ease some of the scoring pressure from RJ Barrett and Julius Randle (should he remain in New York) having averaged 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 4.8 dimes per game while shooting 50.2% from the field and 37.3% from deep per Basketball-Reference.
It will be interesting to see if the Knicks extend an offer sheet to Brunson, and more importantly, what moves they make to generate a viable path to the cap space signing the Mavericks guard will require.