LAS VEGAS -- Guerschon Yabusele’s future with the Celtics was in question as recently as last fall. The team had a decision to make on the 23-year-old power forward in regards to his $3.1-million team option for the 2019-20 season back at the October deadline.
Yabusele had shown glimpses of NBA potential in his first NBA season last fall but he certainly was not worthy of the third year salary for the No. 16 draft slot ($3.1 million) in his third NBA season. Still, the Celtics opted to pick up that team option anyway, largely to give them more flexibility when it came to trades, according to a league source. With very limited midrange salaries on the team’s roster, every single dollar would have mattered in a hypothetical trade for Anthony Davis (or another star) when it came to salary matching via trade. That reality and the possibility that Yabusele might develop into a useful bench piece was enough incentive for the team to keep him around.
Nearly one year later, Davis is no longer a trade option for Boston and Yabusele’s development remains very much a work in progress. His contract is by no means an albatross ($3.1 million is less than three percent of the salary cap for 2019-20) but the bigger issue heading into this fall will be taking up a spot on the 15-man roster. Amid plenty of upheaval in the frontcourt, the team signed and drafted four big men (Grant Williams, Enes Kanter, Vincent Poirier, Daniel Theis) that should take up the majority of the minutes at the power forward and center spot when the Celtics want to go big.
Meanwhile, Yabusele is back in Las Vegas for his third summer league (never a good sign) per the team’s request and looks to be at the very bottom of the depth chart for opening night. One dud performance in the opener (zero points in 16 minutes) has many Celtics fans wondering whether Yabusele is even deserving of that spot on the main roster. He was better on Monday night, admirably playing through a dislocated pinky but he still looks a notch below the top young talent on Boston's roster.
This is why you start GRANT over Yabu smh pic.twitter.com/v52Viz8MJq
— Trevor William Marks (@twmarks_) July 6, 2019
With 15 guaranteed salaries expected once Carsen Edwards inks his new deal, the question that will be asked is what the Celtics options are with Yabusele if they want to bring in a different player to their roster, whether it’s a rookie (Tremont Waters, Tacko Fall) or a veteran free agent. Let’s examine what options the Celtics have with Yabusele heading into next season and how the next week at summer league could impact the team's decision.
Let him compete for a roster spot in training camp
This is the default option for the time being. Even though Yabusele has a guaranteed contract for next season, he should not feel safe about being on the 15-man roster for opening night. The Celtics have eaten the loss on guaranteed contracts before (RJ Hunter, Zoran Dragic, Demetrius Jackson) in camp and they could do the same with Yabusele if they have a better alternative for his asset.
Yabusele will have the next week in summer league, along with the rest of the offseason to prove he belongs. His 3-point shooting (32 percent), rebounding and defensive awareness need to be at a far higher level given his two years of experience. The Celtics can have up to 20 players on the NBA roster during the preseason so there will undoubtedly be additional names in training camp making their case for a spot despite the 15 guaranteed contracts. The Celtics can just wait until then to see if Yabusele does enough to stick around.
Keep him for trade matching purposes during the season
This will be a consideration for the front office with Yabusele even with a superstar trade target like Davis no longer available. The Celtics are going to need money to send out if they want to make a significant midseason upgrade without