Two-time All-Star forward Jaylen Brown has agreed to a five-year, $304 million supermax contract extension with the Boston Celtics, making him the highest-paid player in NBA history, his agent, Jason Glushon of Glushon Sports Management, confirmed to Yahoo Sports. Marc J. Spears of ESPN was the first to report on the deal..
The contract is fully guaranteed. There is no player option for the final year of Brown’s contract in 2028-29. The contract includes a trade kicker that would further increase Brown’s salary if he is traded at any time.
The 26-year-old averaged a career-high 26.6 points per game (49/34/77 shooting split), 6.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 35.9 minutes per game last season, helping Boston to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Celtics have reached the Conference Finals in five of Brown’s seven seasons, including a trip to the 2022 NBA Finals, when they lost to the four-time defending champion Golden State Warriors in a six-game series.
The richest contract in league history is a matter of timing on Brown’s part. He was the only member of the 2016 draft class to earn all-NBA honors with one year left on his current contract, which qualified him for the supermax extension this summer. Brown will earn $28.5 million before his extension begins in 2024.
Brown was reluctant to discuss his future in Boston last season, understandably upset after a season-ending loss to the Miami Heat and told The Ringer’s Logan Murdock earlier this year: “I really don’t know or don’t want to answer that question because that kind of thing makes Celtics fans speculate and go crazy.”
Still, turning down a guaranteed $304 million when the alternative in 2024 could be $100 million less is a no-brainer. Celtics President of Basketball Operations Brad Stevens confirmed this at a season-ending press conference, telling reporters, “I’m not allowed to talk about the specifics of the contract, let alone the extension… but I can say without a doubt that we want Jaylen to be here. He’s a huge part of us.”
Brown’s teammate Jayson Tatum will become the league’s highest paid player next summer when he becomes eligible for a supermax extension worth $300 million. There’s a lot of debate about whether paying Brown in addition to Tatum is Boston’s best path to a championship, especially in light of a new collective bargaining agreement that severely restricts high-priced teams from building lineups.
Brown struggled at times in the playoffs, mostly as a playmaker and especially in this year’s Conference Finals, where he shot 16.3% on six 3-point attempts per game and totaled more turnovers (25) than assists (24). Part of his production decline can be attributed to a laceration to his throwing hand that repeatedly reopened during the playoffs, but he also struggled to contain his ball handling in the 2022 Finals loss.
Still, Brown turns 27 in October, and Tatum doesn’t turn 26 until March. They finished no worse than the conference finals every year, both have been healthy for the playoffs since 2020. (Brown missed the 2021 playoffs with a torn ligament in his left wrist and the Celtics lost in the first round).
It’s not just possible for the Celtics to win with Tatum and Brown as their highest-paid players, it’s been proven. The alternative is to buy Brown for players who almost certainly wouldn’t go anywhere near a title. It’s up to Tatum and Brown to continue their upward trajectory in the early years that still await them.
It’s also on Boston’s front office to build a more cohesive team around them. Stevens started that job just as the season ended in disappointment, smartly adding veteran assistants Sam Cassell and Charles Lee to rookie coach Joe Mazzulla’s team and boldly trading 2022 Defensive Player of the Year Marcus Smart for 2018 All-Star Kristaps Porzingis and several draft picks, including rookie Jordan Walsh.
Before free agency even started, the Celtics boasted a deep rotation and BetMGM’s best title chances in the East. It’s pretty hard to argue against paying Brown when he’s teetering on the brink at 26.