Grading the Knicks’ free agency signing of point guard Jalen Brunson

It’s official  – the New York Knicks got their guy.

The Knicks and Jalen Brunson agreed to a four-year, $104 million contract. The deal has an opt-out after the third season and reportedly descends annually – meaning that Brunson would make roughly $28 million this season and would make $24 million in the fourth season of the deal. This gives greater flexibility to New York, as the front office may need to clear up even more cap space down the line.

Knicks ink Jalen Brunson to a four-year, $104 million deal in free agency

This comes as no surprise. The connections between Brunson and the Knicks (i.e. Rick Brunson, Leon and Sam, etc., etc,) are so well documented it’s at this point cliched.

Brunson is not just a good fit for this basketball team, but he is a player who wants to be in New York, turning down a potential inevitable NBA Finals trip with Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks. Brunson wanted a bigger role and he picked the biggest stage in all of basketball to do it.

Now that the dust has settled – only one thing matters: Is this a good deal? Short answer, yes. The most elementary argument for signing Brunson couldn’t be more simple.

  1. The Knicks needed a point guard who is good at playing basketball.
  2. Jalen Brunson is a Point Guard who is good at playing basketball.

There you have it.

Despite his lack of size (6’1”), he is an extremely versatile player. He gets to the rim as well as any non-big in the NBA. He can shoot, whether it’s pulling up or catching and shooting. Brunson showed the truest extent of his talents when he led the Mavericks against the Jazz in the playoffs when Doncic was injured.

The nitty-gritty of Brunson’s abilities will continue to be covered, but it bears worth repeating: He is a good basketball player and will enter the year as arguably the second-best player on the team.

But no deal is perfect. So, what’s wrong with this one? One of the most obvious issues isn’t so much about the deal itself, but more so how the Knicks got here, as they traded Kemba Walker, Nerlens Noel, and Alec Burks to free up cap space.

These were all contracts that were signed last year and can be officially considered failures. They traded out of the first round of the draft in a series of complicated moves that netted them a couple of protected future firsts, costing them some second-rounders in the process.

It felt like the sort of hoops a team would jump through ahead of a superstar’s long-awaited free agency. The moves that the Knicks made left fans with the same thought: All of this for Jalen Brunson?

And some of the other criticism makes sense: The Knicks have Immanuel Quickley (and Deuce McBride), similarly small ball handlers who haven’t gotten a full chance to lead New York’s offense, at a fraction of the cost. And it seems like point guards are plentiful every year in free agency.

But despite the seemingly gargantuan contract, Brunson will be the 47th highest-paid player in the league next season. That sounds fair to me. And the acquisition of Brunson has not been viewed in a vacuum. As last offseason proved to be a blemish on Leon Rose and company’s resume, Knicks fans are second-guessing his master plan (if there even is one).

And while Brunson won’t be the best player on a championship team, the Knicks are undoubtedly a better team now than they were before the start of free agency. What more can you ask for?

Grade: A-