Rookie contracts are one of the more team-friendly elements of the NBA collective bargaining agreement. They allow teams like the Celtics to pay elite players, including Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown, far under market value for the first four years of their career, based on their draft spots. For fringe first-round picks at the bottom of an NBA roster though, only two of the four years of a rookie deal come with guaranteed money, which can lead to some uncertain times. That’s the situation Guerschon Yabusele finds himself in as the deadline to pick up his $3.1 million third-year rookie option for 2019-20 awaits on Wednesday.
Generally, the vast majority of first-round picks get their rookie options picked up by their team for the first three years of their deal, but that trend has started to shift in recent years in a tight free-agent market, particularly among teams facing salary and luxury tax issues.
For instance, Warriors big man Kevon Looney had his fourth-year team option declined last fall despite being a regular contributor off the Warriors bench. He was due to make just over $2 million dollars, but that would have amounted to closer to $6 million for the Warriors due to luxury tax penalties. Other lottery names (Jahlil Okafor, Mario Hezonja) and low first round picks (Rashad Vaughn, Chris McCullough, Brice Johnson) from 2015 and 2016 draft classes have had their options declined. Former Celtic James Young also had his fourth-year option declined in October 2016. Outside of Hezonja, all of these guys have failed to prove themselves as NBA rotation players. The same is true for Yabusele as he starts the second year of his contract.
Which way will the Celtics go with the big man? League sources tell Bostonsportsjournal.com that the Celtics are leaning