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PHILADELPHIA — One of the more interested observers as Jaylen Brown hammered out his four-year, $115 million contract extension earlier this week was Jayson Tatum, the Celtics’ third-year forward who will be eligible for such an extension next season.

Only Tatum, 21, likely won’t be satisfied with Brown money. The Celtics cornerstone will ask for, and likely receive, a package similar to the five-year, $170 million deals that were awarded to 76ers guard Ben Simmons and Nuggets guard Jamal Murray.

If Tatum plays to his potential this season — which is being the cusp of an All-Star, perhaps leading the Celtics in scoring, and becoming a better defender — the Celtics almost will be obligated to pay him the richest contract in club history.


It had been 10 years since the Celtics had signed a player to a rookie extension, when Rajon Rondo signed a five-year, $55 million deal. In the past decade the Celtics had made offers to Avery Bradley, Jared Sullinger, and Marcus Smart (who re-signed a year later) but hadn’t signed a young player to a contract of such magnitude.

The Celtics are doing their due diligence in figuring out their future salary cap. Brown is obviously going to be a Celtic for the next several years, and the plan is to pair him with Tatum on a likely maximum salary. What does that mean for the future of Gordon Hayward, who has one more year left on his contract? His tenure in Boston is definitely in question if the club decides to re-sign Tatum.

What the Brown contract did is show other Celtics players and the rest of the NBA that Boston is willing to invest in its young core. There was a well-earned perception that Danny Ainge didn’t sign rookie extensions, especially anything approaching a max contract.


That should change with Tatum.

Jayson Tatum had 21 points in Wednesday’s opener.
Jayson Tatum had 21 points in Wednesday’s opener.Michael Dwyer/Associated Press

As much as Tatum is concentrating on this season, he has to consider the possibilities of next summer. The Celtics offered Brown a generous contract, one that stunned many observers around the NBA who predicted that Brown was headed for restricted free agency.

The 76ers viewed Joel Embiid and Simmons as cornerstones and signed both to maximum extensions, ensuring their futures in Philadelphia. The Celtics are going to have to follow suit. This is what happens when you get a slew of draft picks from the Brooklyn Nets, then win the NBA Draft lottery. Eventually, these young cornerstones have to get paid.

“I never really looked at it that way,” Tatum said of awaiting a potential payday. “For me, I just try to focus on this year, let things take care of themselves. When that times comes, if it happens — hopefully — but situations change. But I’m not really worried about it right now.”

Tatum has made so much money in endorsements, including shoe, pizza, and donut deals, that he has not touched any money from his Celtics contract. Tatum and his representatives have developed a financial plan, so there is no sense of urgency.

But, of course, a maximum contract is an NBA status symbol. It means you have reached or are approaching superstar status. Tatum has personal goals (such as making the All-Star team) and team goals (such as winning a championship). But that potential $170 million warchest is a carrot that will grow larger for Tatum as the season progresses.


“I’m very fortunate to be in that position [financially],” Tatum said. “I’m thankful that I got a lot of endorsement deals that I live off of. I’m trying to keep that up and keep saving.”

Tatum texted Brown moments after Brown agreed to his new deal. The two have distinct personalities but are close and understand their responsibilities in pushing the Celtics to a championship-caliber team.

Are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown the foundation of the franchise?
Are Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown the foundation of the franchise?John Tlumacki/Globe Staff/John Tlumacki/Globe staff

“I’m was extremely happy for him, I’ve seen the work that he’s put in,” Tatum said. “I’ve been with him for two years now going on three, so he deserves it. I couldn’t be happier for him.”

The Brown contract helps solidify the Celtics’ future. It shows that the team is determined to invest in its younger core. And it also serves as a prelude to what could be next summer. The Celtics have expected this scenario the moment they drafted Brown and Tatum third overall in back-to-back drafts.

Players enter the draft after their freshman seasons — such as Brown and Tatum — for the express purpose to fast-track the process to their second contracts. So, yes, there will be a distinct possibility the Celtics will have to invest nearly $300 million on two players over a one-year period. That max contract will provide incentive for Tatum to respond with a bounce-back season. He just watched Brown get paid. And his turn will soon come.

Gary Washburn can be reached at gwashburn@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @GwashburnGlobe.