Robb: Why the NBA should let Jayson Tatum (and others) sign an extension now

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(Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Would you risk over $150 million dollars for a chance to make just under a million more? That is the situation that Jayson Tatum will face in the coming weeks as he enters the Orlando bubble with his Celtics teammates.

The All-Star forward is in the third year of his rookie deal currently, earning $7.8 million on the season. He will make roughly the final 10 percent of that salary upon playing the remainder of the Celtics’ regular-season games in Orlando in July and August.

There is no doubt the 22-year-old will be offered a max extension by the Celtics this offseason, something we have reported here at BSJ as far back as February. The final value of a five-year extension won’t be clear until a new salary cap is set for next season but it’s a safe bet for it to be worth over $150 million even after the NBA’s revenue losses.

Serious injuries happen over the course of any season, so the normally durable Tatum would be playing with a slight degree of risk any time he steps out on the floor the rest of this year. However, a speedy restart to the currently suspended season could introduce a higher degree of risk into the equation, especially in regards to tissue injuries. Overseas soccer leagues are already seeing a much higher rate of injuries among players than usual and it’s fair to surmise that will be the reality in basketball as well after months of individual workouts that weren’t allowed to replicate 5 v. 5 game conditions.

It’s with this backdrop that Tatum has already tried to address this situation along with several other third-year NBA players that will be eligible for significant extensions this offseason. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.com reported over the weekend that Tatum was a player in that group pushing for the league to offer insurance to cover a potentially catastrophic injury that could a future big deal at risk.

The issue has come to the forefront of the NBA newsfront on Wednesday yet again after a report from the New York Daily News signaled that Tatum was reluctant to play the remainder of the season in Orlando due to the injury risk.

A league source tells BSJ that Tatum has been a regular participant at voluntary individual workouts in the Auerbach Center over the past two weeks and the team is under the belief that Tatum intends on finishing the season in Orlando. Any player has until June 24 to inform their team they don’t plan on playing in Orlando. Still, it’s easy to understand the conundrum that Tatum may be going through internally when it comes to his financial future. He’s a very smart player and person who is being put in a tough spot between escalating the risk for his financial future and potentially letting his teammates down.

There is a simple way the NBA could solve this problem, even without spending hundreds of thousands on an expensive insurance policy to cover future earnings for guys like Tatum, Donovan Mitchell and Bam Adebayo that will soon be eligible for big deals.

Over the past few weeks, the NBA has already, in consultation with the players association, adjusted parts of the CBA to account for this unprecedented situation with the league calendar and revamped schedule. For instance, the NBA is prorating performance bonuses and incentives for current deals using March 11 (the day league play was suspended) as the end of the regular season. That means eight additional seeding games in Orlando are not part of the bonus formula. That stipulation has allowed certain players contracts to become guaranteed for future seasons, such as Joel Embiid (who cleared the minutes' incentive in his contract through March 11).

The current NBA rookie contract extension rules require teams to wait until the first day of free agency (in this case: October 18th) to offer third-year players an extension that can last up to five years. Given the risky situation players like Tatum, Mitchell, Adebayo, De’Aaron Fox and Kyle Kuzma find themselves in weighing playing for contenders vs. risking future earnings, a simple solution can be reached: let teams