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Jayson Tatum of USA drives during the 1st round Group E match between USA and Turkey of 2019 FIBA World Cup at the Oriental Sports Center on Tuesday Sept. 3, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Lintao Zhang/Pool via AP)

Celtics pick up Tatum’s fourth-year option worth $9.9 million

Jayson Tatum may be coming off of an underwhelming second season in the NBA, but he remains the future of the Boston Celtics. The team is taking steps to make that official. In a move that should surprise no one, the Celtics are picking up Tatum’s fourth-year option, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic. That will keep him in green for $9.9 million during the 2020-21 season. 

Picks as high as Tatum virtually never see their rookie options declined. Case-in-point, Markelle Fultz, the No. 1 overall pick in Tatum’s 2017 NBA Draft class, had his option accepted by the Orlando Magic despite his two turbulent years in the NBA. 

Doing so accomplishes multiple goals. It obviously keeps the player, who the team is ostensibly invested in for the long haul, on board for another season. It does so at a pre-determined rate based on draft position rather than market value. And it also ensures that when the player’s rookie deal expires, he will become a restricted free agent, giving the team the right to match any offer made for him. 

If things go well this season, Tatum will never see restricted free agency. First-round picks are eligible for contract extensions after their third season. If Tatum plays as well as the Celtics hope, they will give him a max extension on July 1, 2020. A year ago, Tatum seemed like a lock to earn such a contract. He is still on track to do so, but he certainly has plenty to prove this season. 

Jayson Tatum of USA drives during the 1st round Group E match between USA and Turkey of 2019 FIBA World Cup at the Oriental Sports Center on Tuesday Sept. 3, 2019 in Shanghai, China. (Lintao Zhang/Pool via AP)

Tatum’s scoring numbers improved only marginally from his rookie season and actually declined from his stellar 2018 playoff run. His field-goal and three-point percentages both fell as he traded in shots at the rim for more mid-range attempts. His defense remains acceptable, but not stellar by any measure. 

The Celtics did not offer a conducive environment for player development last season. They entered the season with championship aspirations, but the conflict between Kyrie Irving and the team’s younger prospects derailed those hopes. Boston figures to place a stronger emphasis on Tatum’s growth this season, and the returns in the preseason have been promising. But the Celtics haven’t yet extended Jaylen Brown, and it looks as though both will have to prove on the court this season that they deserve to be paid like superstars. 

BOSTON, MA – MARCH 29: Jaylen Brown #7 of the Boston Celtics shoots the ball during the game against the Indiana Pacers on March 29, 2019 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images)

Courtesy: CBS Sports

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