Nothing screams free agency like the New York Knicks ready to throw millions of dollars at the wrong player.
Since the turn of the millennium, the Knicks have had a knack for handing out some of the worst contracts in the NBA. Not all of them were terrible ideas. Yes, Amar’e Stoudemire had about 75 jumps left in his knees when they signed him to that $100 million contract in 2010, a deal that had him playing again for the coach that ran him into the ground — Mike D’Antoni.
Still, Carmelo Anthony was on the way and maybe if Stoudemire didn’t start the season playing like an MVP candidate, they could’ve preserved him for a real Eastern Conference playoff run — never forget the Knicks won 54 games in 2012-13. Also, who else were the Knicks supposed to make a run after once they lost out on LeBron James — Carlos Boozer?
Some of the others though, Eddy Curry, Joakim Noah well past his prime, and of course Jerome “Junkyard Dog” James, who signed on to be the Knicks starting center after averaging 4.9 points and three rebounds per game in 80 starts for the Seattle Supersonics, are legendary missteps. The Knicks now seem prepared to make their most financially costly mistake ever, acquiring Jalen Brunson.
He was excellent for the Mavericks in this past playoff both in Luka Dončić’s absence, and by his side. Brunson averaged 21.6 points per game on 46.6 percent from the field and 34.7 percent from three. Scoring 41 and 31 points in consecutive games against the Utah Jazz in the first round kept their season alive long enough for Dončić to return to the floor.
It’s deserving of a substantial raise, but a max deal? With rumor mill swirling for a while about the Knicks wanting acquire Brunson, it appears that’s why they spent the first round of last week’s draft trading for players, and then trading them away minutes later so they could get rid of Kemba Walker’s contract and create the $18 million in cap space needed. Also his father, former NBA player Rick Brunson, was hired by Knicks’ coach Tom Thibodeau as an assistant.
This is quite the effort for a player entering his fifth NBA season whose regular season career-high in scoring is 16.3 points per game, doesn’t crack 6-foot-3, and has never averaged five assists per game. His size is going to make him a liability on defense, and there is no ball-dominant force on the Knicks like Dončić, absorbing all of the attention on regular basis either getting Brunson better looks, or wearing down opposing perimeter defenders with those broad shoulders, making it harder for them to chase Bruson around the floor.
The Knicks have apparently structured their entire offseason around bringing Brunson to Madison Square Garden. He’s the golden goose that’s supposed to put those golden eggs in the basket 10-12 times per game. If Kyrie Irving and Zach LaVine aren’t options for the Knicks, Brunson would be the next best logical option, but the Knicks are selling out for him like he’s a perennial all-star. Unless he makes another leap next season, in a conference with Trae Young, DeMar Derozan, LaMelo Ball, Cade Cunningham, Jimmy Butler, Jaylen Brown, Bradley Beal, Khris Middleton, and even Fred VanVleet, who does Brunson knock off for an all-star spot?
And if he never makes an all-star or All-NBA team, then this is another Knicks free agency move destined to do little to nothing to make the team better. Brunson would be best on a team that is close to serious playoff contention. Perhaps a team like the Los Angeles Clippers, or maybe even the Boston Celtics who need a little bit more firepower on offense.
If Brunson turns out to be your next Eddy Curry, don’t blame him, Knicks fans. He sees a contract that was highly unlikely one year ago. It’s Dolan & Co. that are still struggling to get All-NBA level max players to the Big Apple, and end up giving the money to whomever will take it.