LAS VEGAS — The Celtics on Wednesday waived forward Guerschon Yabusele, a league source confirmed, ending a disappointing stay in Boston for the 16th overall pick of the 2016 draft.
Yabusele averaged just 2.3 points and 1.4 rebounds over 74 games during his two seasons with the Celtics. The year he was drafted, he spent one season playing for the Shanghai Sharks of the Chinese Basketball Association before joining the NBA.
The Celtics had a chance to part ways with Yabusele at year’s end without any financial hit, but last October they picked up his $3.1 million option for the 2019-20 season. A league source said Wednesday that Boston elected to pick up the option in hopes that Yabusele would show signs of further development, but also to have his salary to use for matching purposes in a potential offseason trade. He was a part of several offers, the source said, but that trade never materialized.
Yabusele, 23, did not find a place in Boston’s crowded frontcourt over the last two years. There appeared to be a new opportunity this year after the departures of Al Horford, Aron Baynes and Marcus Morris, but the Celtics filled holes by drafting forward Grant Williams and signing Enes Kanter and Vincent Poirier.
Yabusele had struggled during his first two games at the Las Vegas Summer League, including being held scoreless in Saturday’s opener against the 76ers. He missed Tuesday’s game against the Nuggets with what the team said was an injury to his pinkie finger, and after the game coach Scott Morrison indicated that he would probably miss the rest of summer league action.
A league source said the decision to part ways with Yabusele was unrelated to his early Summer League performance or his injury, but acknowledged that Yabusele’s growth as a player had stagnated, and that it became clear he needed a fresh start elsewhere.
The Celtics now have 14 guaranteed contracts for next season. They have often preferred to leave a spot open at the start of the season in order to maintain extra roster flexibility in case of injuries, but in this case they may look to bolster their thin frontcourt.
The league source said Boston is not waiving Yabusele in order to add a particular player, but said that it could look to fill the void in the coming weeks. Currently, the Celtics can only offer minimum salary contracts.
According to the source, however, even if Boston elects to sign another player to a guaranteed deal, it would not be an indication its roster for next season is set. The Celtics could even add two more players and enter training camp with 16 players under guaranteed contracts, as they’ve done before to get a look at as many options as possible.
Tacko Fall, the 7-foot-6 center rookie center, has become a Summer League sensation here in Las Vegas as well as a fan favorite back in Boston, and many fans are clamoring for him to be added to the 15-man roster. But there are no signs of that happening just yet, the source said.
Fall signed a one-year Exhibit 10 contract with the Celtics. Under that deal, Fall would receive a $50,000 bonus if he agrees to join Boston’s G-League affiliate, the Maine Red Claws, if he is waived before the start of the regular season. The plan is still for Fall to be part of Boston’s training camp roster in September, at which point his development and his status with the team will be re-evaluated.
The Celtics have already filled both of their two-way contract slots, too. In June, Boston agreed to a two-way deal with former DePaul sharpshooter Max Strus, an undrafted free agent. And on Tuesday the team filled its other two-way slot by agreeing to a deal with Tremont Waters, the 51st overall pick of the draft.
Under two-way contracts, players remain with their G-League affiliate for most of the season but can spend up to 45 days with their NBA team. Also, two-way contracts can be converted to NBA deals if teams have an open roster spot. So it is plausible, for example, that Waters could shine in the coming months and have his deal converted, potentially opening up a two-way slot for Fall.