Sometimes the offseason forces NBA teams to make tough choices. The Celtics’ upcoming decision regarding a potential Jayson Tatum contract extension won’t be one of them. There’s a good chance that Tatum is looking for a maximum extension, perhaps up to five years and $ 160 million, and the Celtics would be foolish not to offer him one.
Prior to last summer, Danny Ainge’s Celtics had earned a reputation as a team that didn’t deliver big extensions to their rookie players. Then they broke tradition to give Jaylen Brown a $ 115 contract (counting the incentives), something Tatum’s agent certainly took the time to notice. If there were concerns that the new job security would affect Brown’s performance, they dissipated rather quickly. Brown responded with the best season of his young career, giving the team little reason to complain about their decision
In the NBA, few moves are made in a vacuum. If the Celtics decided to extend Brown, it was obvious – barring a few drops in performance or the sudden appearance of previously unforeseen injury concerns – that the team was preparing to offer an even bigger contract to Tatum. As great as Brown was, there is no doubt that Tatum’s ceiling is higher.
None of what happened last season should give Ainge and the company any reason to worry about Tatum. He scored 23.4 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists in the regular season and was their best player in their entire post-season run. After taking a step back in 2018-19, Tatum is committed to making changes and expanding his offensive arsenal. We’ve seen Tatum take giant leaps to reduce the number of mid-range jumpers he used to catch and become a much more dangerous three-point shooter. Additionally, Tatum has become an underrated defender. There was a time frame this winter when he finished third in ESPN.com’s Real Plus-Minus Defensive metric.
When the Celtics decided to leave the New Big Three era and started racking up draft picks, they didn’t do it just for the sake of having a lot of resources. They knew that in the NBA it was essentially impossible to win a championship without at least one superstar player and that they had no control over where free agents chose to play. Their best bet would be to draft well and pursue potential trades. To that end, the Celtics drafted Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum in back-to-back draft and traded for Kyrie Irving. Irving’s experiment didn’t work, to put it mildly, but Brown and Tatum emerged as a potential core of a league team.
It seems more and more like the Celtics knew what they had all this time. They were high enough on Tatum that they made the controversial decision to swap from first pick in the 2017 NBA Draft because they had already targeted Tatum and knew he would still be available at number 3. The Celtics thought he was a potential star before. to have played just one minute in the league, that’s how high they were on him from the start. Now that he’s done everything he can to justify their belief in him, it makes absolutely no sense for them to back out at the last second. This is what they have been working on all along.