We’re almost at the end of July, and Jaylen Brown is yet to sign a contract extension with the Boston Celtics, despite being eligible for Supermax. Recent reporting has noted how Brown had prior commitments in Europe, and the negotiations are now on ‘hold’. For some, the delay in signing a new deal is nothing to worry about, while for others, it feels like something isn’t quite right behind the scenes.
There has also been a large amount of speculation as to how Brown’s impending contract could potentially be structured. Unfortunately, not all of the speculation has been factually accurate, which leads to unfair and unrealistic expectations. As such, I reached out to former CelticsBlog cap guru Keith Smith to try and piece together what can and can’t be added to Brown’s deal.
As you would expect, my first question was short and sweet: is it normal for supermax extensions to take this long?
“In general, supermax extensions have happened fairly quickly. There’s a Reddit post that’s been passed around about how long it took others, but it’s lacking context. The initial batch took a bit longer because the entire concept was new. There were also several that happened on weird timelines because those offseasons were on adjusted calendars due to COVID-impacted seasons. I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s worrisome that Jaylen Brown and the Celtics are taking this long, but it is certainly abnormal.”
Ok, so it’s not normal for things to be taking this long, but it’s also not time to hit the panic button, understood. With that being said, it’s unlikely that the negotiations are getting stuck on the actual figures being offered — anything over 30% of the cap is an increase on what a max contract would be and is more than Brown would earn anywhere else. So, the delay must be centered on the finer details.
During a recent article for Heavy on Sports, longtime Celtics writer Steve Bulpett shared a discussion he had with an anonymous league executive, where the notion of potentially offering Brown multiple option years was floated.
“What if Boston offered him an opt-out after three years (of the extension) and a team option after four years? That allows him to look at where the market is then after the new media deals are done and streaming comes in with Amazon and Apple and all those folks bidding to get in,” The executive said to Bulpett.
Personally, I’ve never heard of a max or supermax contract having multiple option years built into the deal. So, this was the second question I posed to Keith.
“Option years (true options, not non-guaranteed years, which are often reported as team options but aren’t) can only be on the final season of a contract. That’s true of player options, early termination options (those two are functionally the same thing for almost all intents and purposes), and team options. The only exception is that first-round rookie scale contracts include two team option years. But all other deals can only have an option on the finals season.”
Ok, so it looks like giving Brown more flexibility on his future, in terms of opting out early, isn’t a viable path forward. We’re looking at a player option on the final year. Besides that potential player option, Brown would be tied to the deal for the duration of the contract — which doesn’t necessarily mean he’d be tied to Boston, just to clear that up.
Maybe, Brown wants some assurances that his name isn’t going to be floated in trade rumors moving forward. After all, Brown has seen his name linked with Anthony Davis, Kevin Durant, Joel Embiid (recently), and Damian Lillard, among others. Perhaps a no-trade clause could be the potential kicker that’s currently got negotiations stuck in the mud?
During a recent article by Adam Himmelsbach for the Boston Globe, an executive suggested potentially sweeting Brown’s next contract by including a no-trade clause to the deal.
“There could be some discussion over incentives included in this extension that are unlikely to be obtained, such as a bonus for being named league MVP,” The executive told Himmelsbach. “But according to one former NBA general manager, it’s unlikely that the sides are haggling over those details at this point. The former executive suggested the hold-up is most likely over a fifth-year player option and/or a potential no-trade clause. Players need eight years of service to be eligible for a no-trade clause, and Brown has completed only seven, so that is not an option. But Brown’s camp could negotiate a trade kicker worth up to 15 percent of his salary. A kicker is essentially a bonus paid to the player by his current team if he is traded.”
Since that article was released, there has been some debate as to whether Brown would be eligible for a no-trade clause...so I asked Smith.
“Jaylen Brown is not eligible for a no-trade clause for two different reasons. The first is that to get a no-trade clause, you have to have at least eight years of service and at least four years with the same team. Brown has only seven years of service. (The 2023-24 season will be Brown’s eighth season, but players are not credited with a year of service until after the season completes.)
The second reason Brown can’t get a no-trade clause is that you can’t have on in an extension unless the previous contract also included one. As covered above, Brown isn’t eligible for an NTC yet, so he doesn’t have one in his current contract. In the case of Bradley Beal, who famously has the only current negotiated no-trade clause in the NBA, he signed an entirely new contract with the Washington Wizards and not an extension.”
It would appear that Brown’s contract is unlikely to include some of the sweeteners that have been discussed in recent weeks. The most likely outcome, assuming Brown signs a supermax extension, is that the deal has a player option in the final year and ensures he becomes one of the best-paid players in the NBA moving forward. Keith also confirmed that a trade kicker is a legitimate possibility and a likely one at that. If that’s not enough to get Brown to sign on the dotted line, then I don’t know what is.