With roster spots at a premium, the Celtics seemingly prioritized players willing to spend another year overseas when drafting Nos. 16 and 23 in 2016. That wasn’t necessarily a mistake. There’s value in gaining rights to a player you don’t have to roster (or pay). But it narrows the pool of candidates and makes it less likely you’ll select a future contributor.
Boston took Guerschon Yabusele No. 16 and Ante Zizic No. 23. A year later, the Celtics signed both. Zizic got sent to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. Yabusele has gotten his chance in Boston but done little.
Now, with roster spots once again at a premium, the Celtics will waive Yabusele.
It’s rare for teams to cut such a high pick so quickly. Justin Patton (No. 16 pick in 2017) and Georgios Papagiannis (No. 13 pick in 2016) are the only other players picked so high in recent years not to reach the third season of their rookie-scale contract.
The Celtics had to decide on Yabusele’s 2019-20 team option last October. They surprisingly guaranteed his $3,117,240 salary for next season. So, Yabusele will still get that money (paid out over three years).
Boston didn’t have to waive Yabusele now. The Celtics could’ve brought him to training camp and hoped he surprised. But if they knew he didn’t have a future with them, they did him a favor by letting him loose now. Yabusele just hasn’t shown an ability to contribute in two NBA seasons.
Plus, if he signs elsewhere – even overseas – for more than $1,445,697, Boston can set off part of his remaining salary. This gives Yabusele a head start on finding another job.
The Celtics are comfortably over the cap and below the luxury-tax line. Eating Yabusele’s salary won’t really cost them. It just frees a roster spot for someone with a better chance of contributing.
Still, it’s a disappointing confirmation of a wasted draft pick.