While there could be fireworks this offseason on the trade front, there might not be much movement from the top players on the free agency side. It seems like a decent bet that the four top All-Stars in this year’s class (James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Bradley Beal, and Zach LaVine) will return to their current teams. After them, there are potential future All-Stars in Deandre Ayton, Miles Bridges, Collin Sexton, and Anfernee Simons, but their restricted free agency status could hinder a change.
Then there’s Jalen Brunson, who may have seen the biggest rise in stock in the last regular season and maintained it after Dallas’ deep playoff run. The four-year guard is finishing his rookie contract and will become an unrestricted free agent who could command $20-25 million annually. Most of the teams that can offer that much cap space could be reasonable fits for him. It’s possible Brunson generates the largest bidding war out of any other free agent this summer.
It’s also possible the Mavericks could have locked him in earlier at a lower rate had they structured his original contract in a way that allows him to become a free agent after his third year. This way he would’ve become a restricted free agent last offseason. They reportedly also had a chance to extend him before the season started for the maximum four-year, $55.6 million amount he’s currently eligible to sign by June 30, 2022.
As with the many players listed above, it also seems like a good bet that the Mavericks will spend what it takes to re-sign Brunson. Owner Mark Cuban already went as far to say that he plans on being deep in the luxury tax next season to retain the roster. Still, it’s worth exploring what’s out there for Brunson since there are so many good fits for him and realistic ways these teams could land him.
Cap space teams (Pistons, Pacers, Spurs)
The Detroit Pistons and Indiana Pacers are two franchises expected to pursue Brunson this offseason. Both teams already have respective franchise guards in Cade Cunningham and Tyrese Haliburton, but Brunson has proven he can coexist with great guards given his success with Luka Doncic. In a league becoming more position-less by the year, his malleability makes him very valuable.
The Pistons are set to generate $34 million in cap space this offseason after offloading Jerami Grant and acquiring Kemba Walker and the 13th overall pick (Jalen Duren). That amount is enough to make a competitive offer for Brunson without needing to make any cost-cutting moves, such as declining team options to some of their role players such as Hamidou Diallo and Frank Jackson.
The Pacers are currently on the bubble of being a cap space team as they currently could either…