WALTHAM, Mass. – With the Celtics waiving Ben Bentil on Friday, Danny Ainge confirmed what has been reported for weeks: the final roster spot for the Celtics will come down to James Young and R.J. Hunter.
“It’ll probably go down to the wire, down to Monday,” said Ainge, Boston’s president of basketball operations.
Boston currently has 16 players in camp with guaranteed contracts. The league-maximum of 15 players has to be met by Monday at 5 p.m.
“We’re continuing to evaluate and look for opportunities out there,” Ainge said. “If there are any deals to be had which we’ve been looking for, for a few months. Both of those guys [Hunter and Young[ have played very well and have made the decision very difficult.”
Having to make a tough call at the end of training camp is nothing new to Ainge.
But this time around is very unique.
It’s highly unusual for a team to have to waive a former first-round pick that they selected.
Young was the 17th overall pick in the 2014 NBA draft by Boston, while Hunter was selected by the Celtics with the 28th overall pick in the 2015 draft.
“Sometimes the decision is made for me. It’s really easy,” said Ainge. “But this year it hasn’t been that way. Both of those guys have had some outstanding moments in practice, in training camp and in games. So it’s been challenging.”
Boston being in this roster conundrum is due to having lots of draft picks in recent years that either didn’t turn into impact players initially, or were unable to be flipped for more established talent via trade.
In Young’s draft class, Boston selected him with the 17th pick after picking Marcus Smart with the sixth overall pick.
And in 2015, Boston picked Terry Rozier with the 16th overall pick and Hunter with the 28th overall selection. In the second round of that draft, Boston nabbed Jordan Mickey with the 33rd overall pick and Marcus Thornton at No. 45.
Last year’s draft was an even bigger haul for the Celtics, who went into the draft with a record-eight picks.
They traded two of the picks to Memphis, but used the other six which included Jaylen Brown with the third overall selection.
Ainge reiterated that the Celtics like what both players are doing, but doesn’t anticipate a trade scenario presenting itself that would result in both players sticking with the team.
“Unlikely, but always possible,” said Ainge when asked if it were possible for both to remain Celtics.
Both players are still on their rookie contracts, so that along with the increased salary cap teams have now makes each of them a low-risk addition.
However, most of the teams in the NBA have a full roster and the ones that don’t have a couple players in mind to fill out whatever openings exist.
That means there’s a decent chance that Hunter or Young will be waived, clear waivers and can then sign with a team of their choosing.
It sounds good, only if there’s a team to sign with which as stated earlier, is far from a given.