The Boston Celtics have a fascinating season coming up, as they try to bounce back from a disappointing campaign in 2018-19. With Kemba Walker replacing Kyrie Irving, there's already a completely different vibe around the team, but it remains to be seen whether or not that will translate into more success.
It's not just on the court where there are interesting questions for the team to answer, however. They have some difficult decisions coming up contract wise over the next few seasons, and first up on the list is Jaylen Brown. Entering his fourth season, Brown is set to be a restricted free agent next summer, and so far the two sides have been unable to come to an agreement on an extension ahead of Monday's deadline.
According to a report from Yahoo's Chris Haynes, Brown recently turned down the Celtics' offer of four years, $80 million, which signals that he's ready to bet on himself this season. It's a wise move.
After being a key figure in their run to the Eastern Conference finals without Irving or Gordon Hayward in 2018, there were big expectations for Brown last season. He didn't live up to them, and faced plenty of criticism for his play. But while he didn't continue on the upward trajectory that many had envisioned, he also wasn't as bad as the general consensus would make it seem -- at least not for the entire season.
He was truly a mess to start the season, averaging 11.6 points, posting shooting splits of 41.2/24.7/64.8, and struggling to make much of an impact over his first 20 games. But in his defense, the entire team found it tough to acclimate to their new roles with Irving and Hayward back in the lineup, and he was dealing with a hand injury that made it difficult for him to shoot the ball.
From then on, he was much more like the player he was in his sophomore season, but was never able to shake the perception that his entire season was a bust. Over the final 54 games, he averaged 13.6 points on 48.4 percent shooting from the field and 38.2 percent from three-point range, and was a big reason why the Celtics finished with the sixth best defense in the league.
Now, he enters this season fully healthy, and will be playing in a far more stable environment. As good as Irving is on the floor, there's no question that his eccentricities made things difficult for the Celtics last season, and Brown in particular should benefit from the more stable leadership of Walker. Plus, with Irving, Al Horford, Terry Rozier and Marcus Morris all gone, there will be opportunities for players to step up and earn a bigger role this season.
Taking all of those aspects into account, it's easy to see why Brown would have confidence in himself to have a much better season. That alone could earn him more than $80 million, and that's before even considering the 2020 free agency landscape.
Next summer will be much, much quieter than the one we just had. Depending on what happens with Anthony Davis -- who everyone expects to re-sign in Los Angeles -- and some other players up for extensions, such as Pascal Siakam and Buddy Hield, it's not hard to imagine a scenario where Brown is suddenly one of the most sought after players next summer.
While it would take a remarkable season for Brown to command Jamal Murray-type max money in the $170 million range, it isn't out of the question that he could get $100 million. Especially if some teams who have cap space next summer -- say the Memphis Grizzlies, Toronto Raptors or Atlanta Hawks, who probably aren't getting a true superstar in the summer of 2021 -- decide to try and steal him away from the Celtics with an offer they aren't willing to match.
And, if none of this works out in the way that Brown is hoping, he's young and talented enough that he'll still have plenty of interest next summer. So even if he takes a hit and can't quite earn $20 million a year, he'd have to completely fall apart to not get close to that number, whether it's from the Celtics or elsewhere.
As thoughtful a player as there is in the league, Brown will have surely taken all of this and more into consideration, and if he feels it's the best path forward, it seems reasonable to trust him.