The New York Knicks' expected pursuit of Jalen Brunson seems like it might pay off.
Per NBA reporter Marc Stein, there is a "growing resignation" within the Dallas Mavericks organization that the Knicks are Brunson's "inevitable destination" when free agency begins on Thursday.
Everything the Knicks have done leading up to the start of free agency suggests they have significant interest in Brunson. His father, Rick Brunson, was hired as an assistant coach on Tom Thibodeau's staff.
Through their draft-day trades that saw them send the rights to No. 11 overall pick Ousmane Dieng to the Oklahoma City Thunder and flip the rights to No. 13 pick Jalen Duren, which was acquired from the Charlotte Hornets, to the Detroit Pistons along with Kemba Walker, the Knicks were able to get $18 million under the salary cap.
ESPN's Tim MacMahon noted Brunson is expected to receive a four-year deal from the Knicks "in excess" of $100 million, but they will have to find ways to clear out the remaining cap space to fit that salary onto their books.
Dallas does have the ability to offer Brunson a five-year deal worth up to $175.45 million. That deal would push the team well over the luxury-tax threshold of $149 million for the first time since the 2010-11 season.
A deal of that size may not even appeal to Brunson at this point in his career. Stein reported last week (h/t Grant Afseth of Sports Illustrated) the 25-year-old is "enticed by the opportunity" to be the lead guard for the Knicks.
Brunson, a second-round draft pick in 2018, had a breakout 2021-22 season for the Mavericks. He averaged 16.3 points on 50.2 percent shooting (37.3 percent from three) and 4.8 assists per game in 79 appearances.
The Mavs advanced to the Western Conference Finals for the first time since winning the NBA title after the 2010-11 season. They lost to the Golden State Warriors in five games.
The Knicks missed the playoffs with a 37-45 record. They've had only one winning record in the past nine seasons (41-31 in 2020-21).