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What If: Knicks Star Nearly Ended Up in NBA Finals?

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Before signing a four-year deal with the New York Knicks in 2022, Jalen Brunson helped lead Luka Doncic and the Dallas Mavericks to the Western Conference Finals.

Fast forward to 2024, and things look a bit unexpected. Brunson looks like a top-10 NBA player, but despite leaving the Mavericks, the team still found a way to reach the NBA Finals.

While the Mavs trail the Boston Celtics 2-0 in their best-of-seven series, the question remains, would Dallas have made the Finals if the team kept Brunson?

Brunson was reportedly willing to sign a four-year, $55 million extension midway through his final season in Dallas, but the two sides ultimately couldn’t put pen to paper.

“There was a chance. I really did want to stay in Dallas. I think before my fourth season in Dallas, we tried to extend our contract, and the most we could get was 4 years, $55 million. Obviously, I wanted to do that, I wanted to stay,” Brunson said via BasketNews. “I thought I would be there for a long time. I liked my role there.”

Had he stayed, Brunson and Doncic could have formed one of the most dynamic duos in the backcourt in the NBA. But it wasn’t meant to be.

Instead, the Mavericks traded for Kyrie Irving the following season, giving Doncic a backcourt teammate that could take some of the pressure off of him. While things didn’t work out last year months after Irving was traded, things have begun to click in their first season together as the Mavs have danced all the way to the Finals.

It’s tough to tell if the Mavs would have had the same results if they kept Brunson. They certainly would have had more cap space to work with, which would have allowed Dallas to acquire more prestigious players on the open market. The Mavs paid Irving $41 million this season, which is nearly 75 percent of what Dallas would have paid Brunson over four years.

While Brunson wouldn’t have posted the type of numbers he did with the Knicks the past two years, he might have gotten pretty close.

Given how weird the Western Conference was this year, there’s reason to believe Brunson, Doncic and a supporting cast would have found a way to get past the LA Clippers, Oklahoma City Thunder and Minnesota Timberwolves to meet the Celtics in the Finals.

However, Knicks fans are thankful that it ended up shaking out the way it did.

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