If you’ve ever sat down and looked through the Dallas Mavericks’ draft history, especially over the last couple of decades, it isn’t pretty, and that’s being modest.
Aside from striking gold with draft night trades for Dirk Nowitzki and Luka Doncic, actual Mavs draft picks in that time frame tend to fizzle out, save for Josh Howard in 2003.
So when the Mavs indicate that they’re not going to part ways with Jalen Brunson unless they’re just blown away by another team’s offer, they’re justified in feeling that way. Having a draft pick develop the way Brunson has is a rare ordeal for the Mavs, and if someone wants to take that away, then they should have to pay a fair price – no low-ball offers just because of Cuban’s recent history of dodging the luxury tax.
Brunson is having himself a career-best season, averaging 15.7 points, 3.8 rebounds and 5.6 assists in 31.4 minutes per game for Dallas. He performed so well as the team’s starting point guard when Doncic missed time earlier in the season that head coach Jason Kidd kept him into the starting lineup even when Doncic returned. Brunson is shooting 50 percent from the field and 35 percent from deep (42 percent over his last 10 games).
“I try to not let it affect me at all,” Brunson told Bleacher Report when asked about his name being in trade rumors.
“They are good problems to have. I guess teams have been calling about me and things like that, but I just try to go out and focus on playing for the Dallas Mavericks because that is who I am with, that is who I am trying to win games for right now, so that is what my focus is on.”
For the majority of the last three years, the narrative has been whether or not Kristaps Porzingis can be a true No. 2 option next to Doncic, but now, one could argue that Brunson has overtaken Porzingis as Dallas’ second-best player. He’s efficient, reliable with the ball in his hands, and above all else, he’s available most of the time.
Brunson’s playoff ceiling has been questioned do to his lack of size and occasional struggles against teams with superior length, and those doubts are warranted. But the fact remains that Brunson has only seen postseason action one time so far in his NBA career, and he’ll get a second crack at it this season. All it takes is one good playoff run to change the perception of a player… and to also get said player a lot more money in the offseason.
As much as Mavs fans yearn for something new and fresh when it comes to the team’s roster, trading Brunson at a price that is less than what he’s worth isn’t the way to go about doing that right now. Although it would cause a cash-crunch, paying Brunson in the offseason is the best course of action right now. He is just now entering his prime, and at a projected $18-20 million per year price, the Mavs could still move Brunson later on if needed.
“I am very excited for (free agency),” said Brunson. “I think it is very special. I am I honored to be in the position that am in.
“I think most importantly, I have good teammates around me that have been making my life easier. The teammates that I have had put me in a lot of different positions to be successful. And the good chemistry that I have now is a credit to them.”
As the February 10 trade deadline nears, we’ll see if the Mavs can upgrade their offense around the margins instead of trading their second-best offensive player for a package that would likely result in Dallas taking a step back in the Western Conference standings.