Celtics

Jayson Tatum is a leading voice about one critical concern of NBA restart plan

(Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Jayson Tatum is set to earn the biggest contract extension in Celtics history at the conclusion of the 2019-20 regular season, assuming he gets there in a healthy state.

As the league prepares for the unknown of the Orlando bubble with the threat of coronavirus and serious injuries after a long layoff looming, Tatum is one of the many young stars in the league that are looking to protect their future according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com

Tatum is among a group of five players in the third year of their four-year rookie deals (Bam Adebayo, Donovan Mitchell, Kyle Kuzma, De’Aaron Fox) in talks with the National Basketball Players Association about a potential insurance policy to protect themselves against serious injury.

As we’ve covered here at BSJ back in February, Tatum is almost a lock to be offered a five-year max extension deal from the Celtics this fall, worth roughly $182 million over five years beginning in 2021-22, based off of current salary cap estimates by the league. Those numbers will probably dip a bit with the drop in revenue across the league due to the pandemic (which would lead to a lower salary cap number for future seasons) but even with a decline, Tatum is still set to earn well over $150 million whenever he signs his next deal.

A situation like this puts Tatum (the best player in the group above) and other young players who haven’t earned big paydays just yet in a bit of a conundrum heading into the planned resumption of the 2019-20 NBA season.

With a shortened training camp and ramp-up period, serious injuries are bound to happen across the league. The German Bundesliga soccer league has seen a 300 percent increase in soft tissue injuries since returning last month. While the odds are strongly against a career-threatening one impacting any of these specific players, any type of increased risk(even if minimal) matters after a lengthy layoff.

Tatum doesn’t have much recourse here to protect himself as things currently stand beyond just sitting out. Per NBA rules, he’s not eligible to sign an extension until the offseason, so he can’t get his next deal set in stone before this season resumes in July. Sitting out is not an appealing option with the Celtics looking like a legitimate contender in the East, and Tatum clearly wants to get back on the floor with his teammates.

On top of the injury risk, there is also the unknown in play with COVID-19 and potential long-term effects it may bring for all of these players heading into the Orlando bubble if one of them catches the virus. Jaylen Brown posed that very question on Twitter last month.

These concerns are not going to be on the mind of just Tatum and these young stars in all likelihood. Every single free-agent-to-be has to be entering the bubble in Orlando with some question marks weighing the risks about helping and hurting their future stock with the unorthodox timeline. With the NBA shooting for the 2020-21 regular season to begin in December (putting the full offseason at under two months after the NBA Finals conclude in October), there is going to be minimal time for recovery if a serious injury is suffered. That might take a seriously injured player out of line for a favorable deal in the free-agent market as well, all potentially because of a rushed return schedule to earn just 10 percent of their 2019-20 regular season play (plus playoff earnings).

Take a guy like Daniel Theis, with a lengthy history of knee issues, for example. The Celtics have a $5