Before assembling an NBA-best (43-12) record, the Boston Celtics needed to unload some pieces in the offseason. But in one of the several trades made, the Dallas Mavericks ended up picking up a costly tab.

In July, Boston and Dallas agreed to a three-team deal, allowing the Mavericks to acquire ex-forward Grant Williams in a sign-and-trade. Williams was set to enter free agency and the Celtics weren’t willing to offer up a multi-year payday, but Dallas did, signing Williams to a four-year, $54 million extension. Seven months later, the Mavericks dealt Williams to the Charlotte Hornets ahead of the NBA trade deadline, proving the deal to be a wasted opportunity.

However, when New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson spoke about his previous contract negotiations with Dallas, it introduced an even more daunting perspective for the Mavericks and their $54 million investment.

“I really did want to stay in Dallas,” Brunson said on the “All the Smoke” podcast. “I think before the season, before my fourth season in Dallas, (my) last season in Dallas, we tried to extend our contract. The most we could get was like four years and $55 million. … The deal came on the table after the trade deadline and I was like, ‘No, I think I’ve outgrown that now.’ Personally, that’s what I thought.”

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Brunson’s now two years removed from his four-year run with the Mavericks. Paired with MVP candidate Luka Doncic, Brunson was the Robin to Doncic’s Batman, giving Dallas a second strong source of scoring and facilitating. Now, Brunson’s become the guy with the Knicks, blossoming into an Eastern Conference All-Star while averaging a career-best 27.6 points.

That alone is a tough pill to swallow, but it’s even worse in hindsight seeing that same Dallas front office give Williams, an off-and-on 3-and-D role player, an identical extension. Williams averaged 8.1 points on 41.3% shooting through his 47-game run with the Mavericks before the falling out.

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Unlike the Brunson-led Knicks, seeded fourth in the East with 27 games left to play, Dallas could easily slip out of playoff contention coming out the All-Star break as the No. 7 seed in the Western Conference. While guard Kyrie Irving enhances the star power in Dallas, its become more and more clear that Brunson — a hungry, undersized bulldog-like floor general — was a better fit.

To think the Maverick’s could’ve inked Brunson on a $55 million deal is stunning considering New York paid $104 million, and even that contract is among the better bargains across the NBA.

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The playoffs might be an even tougher binge watch for minority owner Mark Cuban and the rest of the Dallas front office if Brunson continues to play at an elite level in the Big Apple.

Featured image via Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports Images