The case for Jalen Brunson
Jalen Brunson arrived in Dallas in the summer of 2018, greeted by open arms from fans and teammates. The former college player of the decade led the University of Villanova to two national championships in his three-year career.
During Brunson's tenure in Dallas under the Rick Carlisle regime, the point guard didn't see the floor consistently due to his youth and lack of defense. However, things would take a complete 180 under head coach Jason Kidd.
Kidd would take Brunson's career to the next level, as throughout the 2021-22 NBA season, Brunson would average a career-high 16.3 points on an efficient 50.2% from the field.
Additionally, Brunson elevated the Luka Doncic-less Mavericks to a 2-1 series lead in the first round of the 2022 playoffs against the Utah Jazz. This improved Brunson's stature within the organization, as he proved he could win without Doncic in the lineup.
From the Mavericks' perspective, it's safe to say that having Brunson re-sign would have been the better roster management move. Brunson was just blooming into the star he could potentially be, and the Mavs wouldn't have had to give up three future draft picks and long-time Maverick Dorian Finney-Smith in a deal to land a new star.
Having Brunson alongside Doncic for the remainder of their careers would have been a fairytale for Mavs fans, but many MFFLs forget Brunson's struggles in that 2022 playoff run.
During that grueling run, Brunson would fall apart and almost become a simple decoy at points in the series against both the Phoenix Suns and Golden State Warriors.
With Brunsons's historic playoff struggles and lack of defensive presence alongside Doncic, one could assume that Brunson wasn't the best pairing next to Luka.