1: Jalen Brunson
It’s not often that a newly signed free agent goes from being seen as unworthy of a large contract to one of the best bargain players in the NBA in just one season, but Jalen Brunson did precisely that.
Skeptics were out in force when he left the Dallas Mavericks to sign a four-year, $104 million deal with the Knicks, including a player option on the final year.
Brunson silenced his critics almost instantly, displaying the combination of tough-nosed driving ability and a silky smooth jumper that leaves opposing coaches dumbfounded on how to slow him down.
His breakout season culminated in a heroic effort in the second round of the playoffs against the Miami Heat, the eventual Eastern Conference champions. Brunson averaged 31.0 points and 6.3 assists per game while shooting 50.4% from the field, willing the Knicks to multiple victories before they ultimately fell in six games.
He won’t rank within the top 50 highest-paid players in the NBA next season. His contract value is in the same tier as John Collins, Cameron Johnson, and Tyler Herro. Brunson’s deal is also descending in a similar format as Robinson’s, putting him even lower on the largest salaries list for 2025.
At just 26 years old, he’s only scratching the surface of his ceiling as a pro. Brunson has also performed exceptionally well for Team USA this summer as they prepare for the FIBA World Cup, recently dropping 22 points on a perfect 9-for-9 shooting in an exhibition game.
He cemented his status as a leader on a squad with multiple other All-Stars, being publicly praised by coach Steve Kerr for his ability to run the team’s offense.
It’s not often that the best player on a team is also considered the most underpaid, but Brunson easily fits that description. In fact, it’s plausible that he’ll remain the best value contract on the Knicks for years to come.