New York Knicks trade Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks to Detroit Pistons, clear cap space for Jalen Brunson pursuit

The New York Knicks traded center Nerlens Noel and guard Alec Burks to the Detroit Pistons — freeing up $19 million in additional salary cap space — and they’re now in a position to free-agent an overwhelming near-contract offer $110 million to submit to guard Jalen Brunson, sources told ESPN.

The Knicks included two future second-round picks and $6 million to stimulate trade, sources said, and they now have about $30 million in cap to make a massive four-year offer to Brunson. The offloading of players and assets to create the space clearly reflects the Knicks’ confidence that they can reach an agreement with Brunson sometime after opening free agency.

Brunson, 25, has enjoyed a breakout season in which he averaged 16.3 points and 4.8 assists to become the No. 2 player in the Dallas Mavericks behind All-NBA guard Luka Doncic, his classmate from the year 2018, after being included in the starting XI, established December full-time.

Brunson helped lead the Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in 11 years, averaging 21.6 points in the playoffs, highlighted by 41- and 31-point performances in first-round wins against the Utah Jazz, while Doncic was sidelined by a strained calf.

Mavs Gov. Mark Cuban and general manager Nico Harrison ranked Brunson as the franchise’s top offseason priority following the playoff run. Sources said the Mavs are willing to give Brunson a five-year deal — which only Dallas can offer because of his Bird rights — comparable to the four-year, $85 million deal guard Fred VanVleet signed with the Toronto Raptors in the year 2020.

Brunson, an unrestricted free agent because his rookie deal’s fourth season was not guaranteed and not a team option, turned down the Mavs’ offer of a four-year, $55.5 million contract extension after the trade deadline when Dallas- Forward Dorian Finney-Smith signed an identical contract. By this point, Brunson was confident that he would make significantly more as a free agent.

Brunson had informed the Mavs in January that he was willing to sign the extension if it was offered at the time, his father Rick Brunson told ESPN during the playoffs. Dallas made the calculated decision to hold discussions until after the trade deadline if the Mavs had an opportunity to trade against a star, as an extension would have prevented Brunson from being traded before the deadline.

It had long been expected that New York would become a threat to lure Brunson away from the Mavericks, due in large part to the Knicks’ deep ties to the Brunson family. Knicks President Leon Rose, a prominent former agent, has known Brunson his entire life. Rose’s first player client was Rick Brunson, and Rose represented Jalen Brunson early in his career. The Knicks agreed to hire Rick Brunson as an assistant coach this summer and reunited him with head coach Tom Thibodeau, under whom he served as an assistant with the Chicago Bulls and Minnesota Timberwolves.

The Knicks may also offer Brunson an opportunity to be their primary playmaker instead of turning his back on a perennial Dallas MVP candidate.

“It fits great [in Dallas], but at the end of the day, my son is no different than the next man,” Rick Brunson told ESPN in April. “You try to raise them properly to understand the game but everyone wants what Luka has. I don’t care who you are Everyone wants that feeling of “hey, I can do that too”. I don’t always think the grass is greener on the other side, but we’re going to sit down this summer and go over all the pros and cons of staying here and going somewhere else.” New York Knicks trade Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks to Detroit Pistons, clear cap space for Jalen Brunson pursuit

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