As he approaches free agency, point guard Jalen Brunson might believe he can only spread his wings away from the Dallas Mavericks.
"I've talked to people in his circle. They think he has another level to reach that he just couldn't reach with Dallas because he played with the most ball-dominant player in the league in Luka Doncic," Yahoo Sports' Chris Haynes said at the 52:35 mark of his Posted Up podcast. "They feel like he has more to his game."
Brunson has steadily improved since entering the NBA in 2018, but sharing the floor with Doncic has made it difficult for the 25-year-old to show whether he can be a cornerstone of a franchise.
As good as Doncic is, it's understandable why Brunson might feel the grass is greener with another franchise. The 2022 playoffs might have left the 6'1" guard more confident about what he can do in a bigger role too.
Brunson averaged 21.6 points, 4.6 rebounds and 3.7 assists in 18 games. He also carried the Mavs in the first round when Doncic was out for the first three games against the Utah Jazz, averaging 32.0 points.
Because he was a second-round pick, the Mavericks don't have the luxury of restricted free agency with Brunson. He's free to sign wherever he wants.
NBA insider Marc Stein reported the New York Knicks are focusing their efforts on Brunson and are a "very, very, very real" threat to pry him out of Dallas.
The Knicks need a point guard, and one option is off the board after Kyrie Irving picked up his option for next season with the Brooklyn Nets. Brunson is the next best player available at the position.
Jalen's father, Rick, offered what could be telling comments to ESPN's Tim MacMahon in April when he discussed his son's impending free agency.
"We've got to figure out if Dallas wants him. Not words," Rick said. "Ain't no discount. So don't put it on us. Don't tell me you love me. Show me."
The elder Brunson's frustration was also evident when he talked about how the Mavericks didn't offer a four-year, $55.5 million extension—the most they were allowed under the collective bargaining agreement—until it was too late.
"In January, I thought he did enough where he deserved [the extension]," Rick said to MacMahon. "I said, 'Hey, take the money, man.' He wants security. He wants to live here. And they declined.
"He didn't turn s--t down. Y'all declined first. When y'all came back to him, we said, 'Hey, we just want to finish out the season and go from there.'"
Not only did the Mavericks watch Brunson's price tag soar, but they might have also led him to question his long-term future with Dallas.