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Luka Dončić on how much the Mavericks miss Jalen Brunson: ‘A lot’

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Before the 2021-22 season, Jalen Brunson was eligible for a four-year, $55.5 million extension that he would have jumped at. The Mavericks never made the offer, wanting Brunson on a short-term contract to make him more trade-friendly heading into the 2022 trade deadline. After the deadline, the Knicks made that offer, but by that point Brunson had stepped up his game and was worth more than that $55.5 million. The Knicks signed Brunson away for nearly double that number.

As the Knicks sit fifth in the East and the Mavericks are in danger of missing the postseason entirely, Luka Dončić was asked how much the Mavericks miss Brunson.

What else was he going to say?

Dallas has had its eye on the horizon for the next star to put next to Dončić — first it was Kristaps Porzingis, now it is Kyrie Irving — without building up an infrasctructor of players around the stars that complement their skills. As great as Dončić and Irving are, the Mavericks can’t win if they don’t get some stops, and they are awful on that end.

As has been reported before here and elsewhere, the Mavericks plan to bring back Irving next season (what Irving wants is a question only Irving can answer, but there are limited teams with cap space who might want to pay him). The plan in Dallas is to spend the offseason trading picks, including a possible top-10 pick this season, to try and upgrade the roster around their stars with more defense and shooting. (The Mavericks pick belongs to the Knicks, top-10 protected, as part of the Kristaps Porzingis trade. Dallas currently has the 10th worst record.) The idea is to bounce back next season with two stars — who have a summer and training camp to mesh — and a better supporting cast.

But they are going to have a hard time adding anyone to that cast who would have been as good as Brunson.