The Celtics on Saturday finalized their 15-man regular-season roster by keeping veteran forwards Noah Vonleh and Justin Jackson and waiving forward Jake Layman, according to league sources.
Veteran forward Mfiondu Kabengele and rookie point guard JD Davison will remain on two-way contracts. The Celtics last week waived wing Brodric Thomas.
In past seasons, the Celtics occasionally kept just 14 players in order to maintain roster flexibility. But a league source said that forward Danilo Gallinari’s season-ending ACL tear would lead them to fill all 15 spots at the start of this year.
Vonleh, the Haverhill native who was drafted ninth overall in 2014 by the Hornets, agreed to a one-year deal with Boston in August in large part because of the opportunity to secure a roster spot. The Celtics wanted to fortify their frontcourt after trading backup center Daniel Theis to the Pacers in July, and the need was exacerbated by Gallinari’s injury and center Robert Williams’s knee surgery that will likely sideline him for about two more months.
Vonleh played professionally in China last season and had an impactful training camp for Boston, including his 14-point, 13-rebound performance against the Hornets last week. The Celtics are expected to deploy smaller lineups frequently while Williams is sidelined, but Vonleh could provide some support on the glass. The Celtics surrendered 22 offensive rebounds in their preseason loss to the Raptors in Montréal on Friday.
Jackson, a sixth-year veteran, signed a 10-day contract with the Celtics last season when their roster was ravaged by COVID-19 absences. But then he contracted COVID-19 soon after. Still there was later discussion about signing the forward for the remainder of the season before the team agreed to a deal with Nik Stauskas instead.
Jackson had 16 points in a win over the Hornets on Oct. 7, and against the Raptors on Friday night his difficult runner with 36.8 seconds left in regulation gave Boston a 127-126 lead before Toronto came back and won in overtime.
After that game, coach Joe Mazzulla said he was pleased by the play of all of Boston’s training camp players during camp.
“I thought they did a great job offensively running the floor,” Mazzulla said. “Great spacing. I thought they ran our stuff very well and I thought they competed defensively to fit right in with our system.”
Of course, while final roster moves are always intriguing, they usually don’t end up mattering much. Barring significant injuries, the Celtics will lean on their primary rotation players when they open the regular season at home against the 76ers on Tuesday.
“We’re prepared,” forward Grant Williams said. “We know what will make us great or hurt us. So it’s just a matter of making sure we don’t beat ourselves. Make sure we take advantage of opportunities that are available to us and play with one another consistently, because we look good out there most times. We’ve just got to finish plays.”