Jaylen Brown, former No. 3 overall pick of the 2017 NBA Draft, will be a restricted free agent after the upcoming season. As such, extension talks have already begun in earnest between Brown and the Boston Celtics. The last report we heard a few months ago indicated Brown is looking for the most money he can earn for his second contract, a number that tops out at $170 million. On Wednesday, Chris B. Haynes reported the Celtics had offered Brown a contract worth $80 million over four years.
That is quite a disparity, obviously. But negotiations are always like this, where numbers are leaked and the world reacts and both parties take the reactions into account. But the attitudes of both sides towards this latest contract offer of $80 million make sense.
The Celtics always do this with guys coming off their rookie contracts. They last player they signed to a second contract before they hit restricted free agency was Rajon Rondo back in 2009, when he had proven himself an integral member of a championship core. The most recent example we can look back on is Marcus Smart. Smart and Boston were unable to come to terms on an extension after the Celtics lowballed Smart before the year, so he played the year out, hit restricted free agency, then returned to the team on what now appears to be a bargain of a 4-year, $52 million contract.
It appears to be more of the same this year. For the player Brown is right now, $20 million a year seems appropriate. In the midst of last year's dysfunction, Brown averaged 13 points per game while shooting 34 percent from deep and showed flashes of strong defensive play. His game still exhibited a lot of obvious flaws, but the signs of a solid to good 3&D defender were there, with the chance to become a reliable No. 2 option in any offense. But that's all that it is right now: potential. So offering Brown $90 million less than the max seems fair, given he's maybe 60 percent of the way to becoming a max player.
On Brown's end, it makes complete sense that he'd turn that offer down and play out the year. Last year was (obviously) not an ideal scenario for any member of the Boston Celtics, and for Brown it was doubly so after his early-season struggles with injury resulted in his benching. In order to get paid the way he feels like he deserves, Brown would have to up his scoring to at least 17 points per game, shoot above league-average from three, exhibit relatively consistent lockdown defense, and improve his free-throw shooting. All of that (especially the defense) would require a pretty big jump in skill and effort from Brown.
But is it completely out of the question? No, it is not. And for that reason, Brown has everything to gain and nothing to lose by refusing to sign a contract offer for $80 million over four years. The absolute worst-case scenario is that Brown is forced to sign that deal after failing to substantially improve in any area. The realistic scenario is that he makes enough of a jump to earn an incremental increase (like, say, $100 million over four years). Best-case? He shows enough that the Celtics (or another team on the restricted free agent market) offer up a fat contract close to Jamal Murray numbers. So while everyone overreacts to a perceived lowball offer or inflated sense of self-worth, it's just all part of the game.