Burning Question Week: Will Jaylen Brown leave the Celtics in 2024?
Will Jaylen Brown leave the Boston Celtics?
This is the question that has been on the minds of fans for the next two years. When Kevin Durant trade rumors dominated the headlines, some fans were in favor of the deal as Brown could drop out of the Celtics in the summer of 2024. Others preferred the idea of keeping Brown and convincing him to stay in the city that drafted him.
Brown has two years left on his current contract, and technically speaking, he could sign an extension right now. However, that will not happen. Not because he doesn’t want to be in Boston, but because he’d give away a ton of money if he did. Keith Smith of CelticsBlog explains:
“It’s not at all beneficial for Jaylen Brown to extend now. It has nothing to do with the Celtics. The Celtics would love to extend him today. Because he’s not on one of the so – Called designated player extensions, Brown isn’t able to max out like what we typically see a lot of other guys do.
So at this location, Brown is projected to earn $30.7 million last year, in the 2023-24 season. What he can do from that number is he can extend 120%, or a 20% increase of that, for three years. Right now today, he could do it. That would make his figure, let’s call it $36.9 million in 2024-25, $39.8 million in 2025-26, and then $42.7 million in 2026-27. Total, three-year extension, $119.5 million. If Brown waits to become a free agent, his first-year salary he would be entitled to is $42.9 million. So $42.9 million is, you know, about $6 million more than he could earn in an overtime, and then you add the raises from there, and we go from there. That’s why he won’t make the standard veteran overtime this summer.
The summer of 2024 will be the first time that Boston’s current core will be put at risk, and for the most part the Celtics have no control over it. Brown will be an unrestricted free agent. The Celtics can offer him more money overall than anyone else, but if he wants to join a different team, he’ll be free to do so.
By the time free agency arrives in 2024, Brown will be 27, at the peak of his career, and one of the most intriguing players out there. But he won’t be the only player available. Guys like Khris Middleton, Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet will also be in unrestricted free agency. Brown, however, will be more than two years younger than all of them.
But what would prompt Brown to leave Boston? Well, there are a bunch of reasons.
First scoring option
As it stands, Brown will never be The Man in Boston. Barring one insane jump from him and plenty of throwbacks from Jayson Tatum, it’s just not in the cards with the Celtics. Tatum is very clearly the strongest option on the team, and while Brown isn’t far behind, there will always be that inner feeling of being Tatum’s Michael Jordan Scottie Pippin.
Now, whenever one of the two talks about it, that’s never how it goes. From everything we’ve seen of Tatum and Brown, they’re committed to building something special in Boston together. But who knows what the future holds? By the time he reaches free agency, perhaps Brown is eager to lead his own team as the undisputed No. 1.
There will be teams in 2024 in free agency that can offer him that. Teams like the Toronto Raptors, Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets will all have enough money to sign Brown and can likely offer him the opportunity to be top dog. Obviously, Charlotte and Indiana have top point guards in LaMelo Ball and Tyrese Haliburton, but it’s not hard to imagine those guys taking a back seat in the scoring column and easing Brown instead.
But while those three teams are prime examples, Boston’s biggest threat may actually be a recent playoff opponent. The Raptors, Hornets and Pacers may offer Brown the chance to be the first scoring option, but the Miami Heat can give him that title and a shot at a championship. By the time Brown enters free agency, Kyle Lowry’s contract will be void, and if they free up some more space by then by casting Duncan Robinson, they could make room for Brown in South Beach.
Jimmy Butler never wanted to be the number one scoring option, and Bam Adebayo has proven he’s not that type of player. Adding Brown to the mix could propel Miami even further into the track mix, and Brown would become the star of the show.
If Brown wants to go somewhere where he can be the first scoring option, there should be options for him in free agency.
Change of scenery
Maybe Brown doesn’t care to be the first option. If so, he would likely struggle to find a better fit than the Celtics. They’ve built a championship-caliber roster around him and Tatum, and they’re ready to compete for titles over the next decade. But what if he just wants a change of scenery? Well, there will be plenty of quality teams who should be ready to give him that too.
The Dallas Mavericks should be constantly on the lookout for a co-star to partner alongside Luka Doncic, and if they drop a contract or two by 2024, they could make room for Brown. Not only would Brown be able to take away some of Doncic’s scoring charge, but he would also likely be the best perimeter defender on the team.
Similar statements can be made for teams like the Memphis Grizzlies, Detroit Pistons and Philadelphia 76ers, all of which could be looking for new faces to partner with their respective stars by 2024. Ja Morant, Cade Cunningham and Joel Embiid would all jump at the chance to play with Brown.
Again, though, that line of reasoning would be banking on the idea that Brown is fed up with Boston, and from everything we’ve seen, that doesn’t appear to be the case at the moment.
Whenever reporters ask Tatum about a team he’d rather play for than Boston, he always notes that if St. Louis had a team, he’d want to play there. What if Brown felt the same way? Could he join the Atlanta Hawks?
The short answer? Absolutely.
Brown’s love for the city of Atlanta has been well documented. The most relevant example came in 2020, when he drove 15 hours from Boston to Atlanta to lead a peaceful protest in his hometown. Joining him at the protest was his new Celtics teammate Malcolm Brogdon, as he is also from the area.
Players choosing to sign with their hometown team is not a new concept. LeBron James returned to the Cleveland Cavaliers in 2014 and Kawhi Leonard opted to sign with the LA Clippers in 2019.
And in terms of product on the field, the Hawks are doing a solid job of building a quality roster. Trae Young is an All-NBA level guard, they just traded for Dejounte Murray (whom they would need to re-sign by then), and their supporting cast is still young too. Additionally, they will have the option to open cap space for Brown if they trade one of John Collins or Clint Capela.
Where would that leave the Celtics?
Let’s say Brown decides to leave Boston. Where would that leave the Celtics?
Well, while nothing is guaranteed, the Celtics wouldn’t be in a terrible position. At this point, Tatum would still have two years left on his current contract (the latter being a player option), Marcus Smart and Robert Williams would still have two years fully guaranteed, and Brogdon and Derrick White would each have one year. . The rest of Boston’s core would still be in place.
Given Grant Williams’ potential extension and Sam Hauser’s final year of contract, that would leave the Celtics down to seven players (if Al Horford retires by then). And, if no action is taken, Spotrac predicts they will have just under $27 million in ceiling space. It’s not enough to sign a max player, but they’d be one trade away from Brogdon or White getting into that conversation. A signing and trade with Brown could also net them a marquee player in return.
It obviously looks too far ahead, but that summer guys like Siakam, VanVleet, Middleton and Domantas Sabonis will all hit the open market. None of them are quite on Brown’s level, especially considering the youth, but it’s not like the Celtics will be unable to replace his production.
Keeping Brown is, and should be, the top priority, but if all else fails, there will still be some decent options for Boston to consider in free agency that year.
Is Brown leaving?
It’s impossible to know whether or not Brown will leave in 2024. A lot can change in two years. If Boston wins a championship, how will that affect things? Would Brown want to go on and build not just a winner, but a dynasty with the Celtics? Or would he feel like he had accomplished everything he set out to do in Boston?
What if they don’t win everything? Would he want to keep running with Tatum, trying to win a ring with the Celtics? Or would he rather test the waters with a new club? There are a ton of questions that no one knows the answer to except Brown, and even he might know them now.
Everything he and Tatum have said indicates they are determined to win in Boston. They want to help the Celtics win Banner 18 together. Consider this quote from Tatum that surfaced in August.
“We just try to stay in the moment. It’s not necessarily about what our legacy would look like if we did this, that and the third,” Tatum told NBC Sports Boston. “I’m just trying to be the best versions of ourselves, the best players we can be, and compete at the highest level. I think we really took those next steps last season. And we’ll be the first to tell you that we have more to do, more to accomplish, and we can’t wait to do it… Despite all the people who said that we couldn’t play together, we always believed that we could.
Two years is a long time, but right now Brown seems to be all about Boston.