The only time he was asked directly to address the topic of signing an extension to stay in Boston, as the Celtics’ time in the NBA bubble expired following their loss in the Eastern Conference finals, Jayson Tatum demurred, saying only that the Celtics “just lost,” indicating he was not prepared to talk about it.
“I haven’t even thought about that yet,” he told reporters at his postgame press conference. “I was just focused on this season. The front office and my agent have got to talk about it. But I’m not thinking about that right now. We just lost a series. Just thinking about the guys in the locker room and the games. That’s what I’m thinking about. Stuff like that, going to happen, if it happens, it’s not really my concern. I’m not even thinking about that.”
But Tatum is in line for an extension that could be worth around $158 million. If he was not thinking about that following the Miami series, surely he has thought about it once or twice in the past year.
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ESPN analyst and former Celtics center Kendrick Perkins was not shy about what Tatum ought to do.
“Tatum will get it this summer,” he said according to NBC Sports Boston, “and he’s going to take it. He’d be a fool not to. Cash out. Don’t be crazy.”
Jayson Tatum Had Breakout Year
Tatum, in his third season, averaged a career-high 23.4 points with 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists, all career highs. He shot 45.0% from the field and 40.3% from the 3-point line, all while improving drastically as a defender. He was an All-Star for the first time and earned a spot on the All-NBA third team. He is only 22 and had a true breakout season.
Tatum, the No. 3 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, is still on his rookie contract and will remain under that deal for next season. It paid him $7.8 million this year and will give him $9.9 million next year. Any deal he signs will be an extension, not a new contract.
If no agreement on an extension is reached, Tatum would become a restricted free agent at the end of 2020-21. The Celtics still would be able to match any offer Tatum got in the 2021 offseason, ensuring he will not be leaving Boston any time soon no matter how talks on his extension go.
NBA Salary Cap Will Affect Deal Between Celtics, Jayson Tatum
Still, the Celtics are certain to offer the maximum to their young star. Historically, the Celtics have been reluctant to give out contract extensions to former draftees, but last year, they broke with that pattern and signed Jaylen Brown to a four-year, $115 million contract. Brown went on to have the best season of his career.
Tatum’s circumstances are different, though, in that there is much that remains uncertain about the NBA’s financial picture going forward. Despite rescuing as much of the season as possible by playing in the Orlando “bubble” with 22 teams finishing out eight games of the season, then playing a full postseason, the league will get financially clobbered when the revenues are tallied.
That could be important to Tatum because the loss of league revenue will cut back on the salary cap and the size of Tatum’s extension will be based on the cap. It is possible that if the cap appears to come in low for 2021, Tatum would shorten the deal he takes from the Celtics, maybe even making it a two-year deal with a player option on Year 2. That would allow him to re-sign a lucrative contract when, hopefully, the COVID-19 virus has passed.
However it plays out, it is a priority for the Celtics, who will ensure that their young star is happy and secure in Boston. As Celtics president Danny Ainge said this month, “Jayson knows how much we like him. We have a good relationship. Jayson likes it here, so I’m confident that we’ll be able to work something out this [offseason].”