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Can the Celtics afford to pay Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown for the next few years?

It’s probably safe to assume that the Celtics didn’t see this coming. Yet, despite looming elimination, they’ve also got to think about the future of their stars.

It’s probably safe to assume that the Celtics didn’t see this coming. Yet, despite looming elimination, they’ve also got to think about the future of their stars.

While it’s all but certain that the two Celtics stars won’t be seeing the NBA finals this year, the question of their immediate future with the team has now taken center stage and rightly so. Will they stay, or will they go is the question on everybody’s mind.

What’s up with Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum?

So, let’s start with the facts: the Boston Celtics are 3-0 down to the Miami Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals and quite frankly are likely to get swept. In addition, they’ve got All-NBA players like Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum on their roster and yet here they are. To be clear, both players are on sizeable contracts, and in a position to pocket even more given their current status. The question of course is not whether they deserve to - you can’t win all the time - but rather how would it work if they did?

As mentioned before, both players were recently named the All-NBA teams with 26-year-old Brown clinching a spot on the second team, while 25-year-old Tatum got first-team honors. What that means, is that both players are now eligible to sign Designated Veteran Extensions, or as they are commonly called, “supermax” contracts. If you didn’t know, players generally can’t sign contracts that have a value of more than 30% of the cap until their 10th season in the league begins, however, All-NBA status does in fact allows players to secure a salary that is worth 35% of the cap before their eighth or ninth season.

How can the Celtics make a deal work for both?

What we’ve now established is that Brown can sign a supermax contract this coming summer. Such a deal would see him earn in the realm of $290 million over five years. To be clear, that’s $100 million more than what he would have received if he hadn’t secured All-NBA honors. Where Tatum is concerned, his extension will be on the table next summer and assuming he puts pen to paper, it will see him pocket more than $308 million over five seasons. Should both of them finalize their deals, Brown’s new contract would activate ahead of the 2024-25 season, while Tatum’s would commence for the 2025-26.

Where do the Celtics stand?

At present the Celtics are the fifth-most valuable team in the NBA with a worth of $3.92 billion. That’s to say, they can definitely afford to pay their two stars, however, it would likely require some wrangling. If we consider the Golden State Warriors who maintain their roster by surpassing the league’s luxury tax by a whole lot, then there is a way. On the other hand, the Warriors are worth almost double what the Celtics are at a whopping $7.56 billion. That’s to say, they can take the hit. This does not mean that maxing out the prolific pair would cause financial issues for the franchise, but it would certainly limit their ability to support their stars with a decent supporting cast.

What’s the solution for the Celtics?

Truth be told, this one isn’t a simple case of ‘keep your best players.’ It goes without saying that both Brown and Tatum are some of the best players of their generation right here and now. On the other hand, they are just two cogs in the wheel that is the Celtics and to date, that wheel hasn’t rolled as smoothly or consistently as many assumed it would. Indeed, as their current situation demonstrates, the Celtics’ tendency to take their opponents lightly can often come back to bite them. With that in mind, could it be that under the duo’s leadership, the team has overstated its capacity? While the answer to that question remains unclear, what is clear is that the Celtics have an almost $600 million problem to solve and it may just be that as good as both players are, they’re not exactly the right fit in terms of leadership, which every team needs. Watch this space.