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Five players likely to pass Jaylen Brown for NBA’s largest contract

Jaylen Brown’s $303.7 million extension with the Celtics is the largest contract in NBA history. For now.

Within a year it will not be. It could fall out of the top 10 within a handful of years. With the salary cap going up 10% for next season and expected to continue at that pace for about five years — phasing in the new national television/streaming rights contract — the salary cap is about to grow by leaps. By 2027-28 the salary cap is projected to be $191 million. Or, look at it this way: A team executive I spoke with during Summer League expects by 2030 the mid-level exception will be about $20 million a season — that’s a league-average contract.

Brown’s reign at the top will be temporary, but who is going to pass him?

Those contracts will not be handed out like candy under the new CBA restricting the highest-spending teams. To earn those eye-popping paydays, a player must be worthy of a max contract and be coming up for a new deal, but it’s also timing. Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant become extension eligible next summer and are clear max players, but the over-38 rule limits how many years they can extend for. Trae Young will be extension eligible in a couple of years, but is he going to win MVP or make enough All-NBA teams to qualify for the supermax?

Here are five players we can expect to pass Brown in the coming years.

1) Giannis Antetokounmpo

Antetokounmpo will be eligible for a contract extension starting in September – he could sign a similar deal to the one Brown just got — but he’s not going to. There are two good reasons for him to wait. First, he has two years left on his contract so he could only extend for four years, he makes more money waiting until next summer and extending for the full five years then (it will be an estimated $334 million over five, with that fifth year worth an estimated $76 million).

Second, waiting keeps pressure on Bucks management. The Bucks just re-signed Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton, but this roster is older (Lopez, Middleton and Jrue Holiday are all at least 32), and the organization will have to pivot soon around the younger Antetokounmpo. He may want to wait and discuss those plans with management before signing on the dotted line.

2) Jayson Tatum

If the Celtics are paying Brown, they are paying Tatum. He is not eligible to sign an extension until the summer of 2024, but when he does it will be for the estimated $334 million over five years.

With Tatum and Brown each making around 35% of the salary cap, the Celtics quickly become one of the teams to watch with how they navigate the new CBA and the second apron of the luxury tax. It will be hard to keep this roster of quality role players around that All-Star wing duo as those players come up for new contracts of their own over the next few years (Derrick White, Malcolm Brogdon, Robert Williams II, all role players but ones who will demand larger deals than they have now).

3) Joel Embiid

In the summer of 2025, the MVP from last season can sign a five-year, approximately $367 million extension — one where in the final year of the contract he would make an estimated $83 million a season, or more than $1 million a game. Embiid can do that with the 76ers or — if the speculation turns into reality — any team he forces a trade to because he will have more than 10 years in the league, meaning his max is already 35% of the salary cap. Which is different from…

4) Luka Dončić

Dončić would be eligible for the same contract as Embiid — 35% of the salary cap, or a five-year, $367 million extension — in the summer of 2025, but only if he stays with the Dallas Mavericks (and continues to make All-NBA teams). If Dončić grows frustrated enough with the Mavericks’ team-building efforts and forces a trade, he could only sign a 30% max with his new team. It makes one think Dončić could take the more modern tactic of staying with Dallas, grabbing the biggest bag he can, and waiting to force a trade until 2026 or 2027 if things in Dallas don’t improve to the point of them contending.

5) Nikola Jokić

Nikola Jokić is arguably the best player walking the face of the earth right now — and the best hooper singing with his shirt off — and he just signed a contract extension worth $274 million before the start of last season. However, thanks to his player option at the end of it, by the summer of 2026 he could sign the NBA’s first $400 million contract as an extension of his current deal, specifically five years at $404 million. Jokić could get that money whether he wins another MVP or title or not because he will have 10 years of service and be eligible regardless (his style of play should age well).

Any five-year supermax contracts in the summer of 2026 could crack that $400 million barrier, and guys to watch include Ja Morant, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Zion Williamson (of that group, SGA feels like the safest bet).