Celebrating the Fool
Dallas' big loss has become New York's most meaningful gain in ages.
Knicks 130, Cavs 116
Happy April Fool’s Day.
Or, as it shall now be known in NBA circles, Happy Dallas Mavericks Day.
That’s the only way to proper acknowledge the Mavs organization for their fau paux, especially after last night, but really since the the moment it happened.
Last night, of course, is when Jalen Brunson dropped a new career high 48 points on the Cleveland Cavaliers in a one-on-one battle against Donovan Mitchell. Mitchell was obtained by Cleveland last September for a package comprised of three firsts, two swaps, Collin Sexton, Ochai Agbaji, and 2023 All-Star Lauri Markkanen. It’s a steep price but they’re likely happy they paid, not only because Mitchell is going to find his way onto a healthy number of MVP ballots, but because that is the going rate to obtain a star player in the NBA these days, especially when that player is young.
The reason star trades now come with such exorbitant price tags is because trades have become just about the only way for rival organizations to pry away genuine difference making talent from the teams that drafted those players. With the security offered by max and supermax contracts and the fact that stars can always sign now and demand out later, there is little incentive for the very best players to hit unrestricted free agency. That’s even truer now that the NBA widened the previous extension limits in the CBA they agreed to last night.
But even with those widened limits, the Dallas Mavericks should not have been able to avoid disaster so easily heading into last summer, and lose Brunson for nothing.
Part of that has to do a savvy bit of negotiating by Brunson’s former agent, who made the final year of his rookie pact a non-guaranteed year instead of a team option, thus preventing the Mavs from ever making Jalen a restricted free agent. The other part had to do with a rule in the CBA that, even if last night’s change had already been in effect, would still have prevented Dallas for extending Brunson for more than four years and $55 million before he was able to hit unrestricted free agency.
In NBA star parlance, four for 55 is nothing - midlevel exception money reserved for high level role players and spot starters. Brunson’s former teammate Dorian Finney-Smith signed that same contract last season and is currently the 116th highest paid player in the league. Given that Brunson had a 10-game stretch filling in for Luka Doncic in December as the Mavs’ starting point guard - a stretch in which he averaged and efficient 21 & 7 - he’d have been well within his right to scoff at the thought of signing such a deal.
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