The Guerschon Yabusele era, revered for its throwback velour tracksuits and bow-and-arrow slinging post-3-point celebrations, ended Wednesday when the Boston Celtics waived the 23-year-old big man.
The Celtics are on the hook for his $3.1 million salary and are essentially signaling that they see a greater value in an open roster spot than waiting for Yabusele to become an in-season trade asset.
Boston has some flexibility now to maneuver in advance of training camp. The team can use its open spot to ensure summer league celebrity Tacko Fall stays on their roster, though there’s no rush to do such until rival teams begin inquiring about his availability. The Celtics planned to sign second-round pick Tremont Waters and undrafted Max Strus to their pair of available two-way deals but could also elevate one of those players to Yabusele’s roster spot if they preferred to make Fall a two-way player.
The Celtics might be content to patiently examine potential trade possibilities with a goal of adding more proven talent, the open roster spot allowing the acquisition of an additional player should the team need that spot in an uneven swap.
It felt like Yabusele was playing for his roster spot heading into summer league. Even with the Celtics thin on bigs with the departures of Al Horford, Aron Baynes, and Marcus Morris, the team’s burst of offseason signings — Enes Kanter, Daniel Theis, and Vince Poirier — combined with the drafting of Grant Williams hinted that the jury was still very much out on whether Yabusele could be a contributor.
A subpar start to Vegas summer league spelled Yabusele’s demise. Pressing or not, he had a dismal summer debut then dislocated his pinkie finger diving for a loose ball in Ggame 2. Yabusele never showed the confidence and poise of a player in his third summer league and the lack of encouraging signs made the choice to move on a bit easier.
The natural tendency when a team lets go of a disappointing first-round pick is to point at all the players they missed on that were drafted after him. Scream and yell about the likes of Caris LeVert all you’d like, but the Celtics had prioritized players with draft-and-stash potential after nabbing Jaylen Brown at No. 3 in the 2016 draft. That made Yabusele and Ante Zizic that much more attractive at spots Nos. 16 and 23.
What you can lament is how the Celtics at least utilized Zizic as part of the trade package that brought back All-NBA guard Kyrie Irving. The Celtics are moving on from Yabusele and eating his money assuming no one picks him up on waivers (which seems unlikely when he would be a minimum-salary pickup after the fact).
In cutting Yabusele loose now, the Celtics give him a chance to find an opportunity elsewhere in advance of training camp. His locker room presence will be missed as teammates genuinely liked Yabusele's fun-loving nature. But Boston can use his spot to find a far more impactful player (or at least one they can try to develop to be such).
The Celtics are still well below the tax line so they can afford to eat the money without fear of the big-spender penalties. If they elected to stretch Yabusele’s money out over multiple seasons, it might afford them some extra money to negotiate a deal with second-round picks like Carsen Edwards and Waters, who the team could lock up for longer than what they could otherwise on minimum deals.
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