The Boston Celtics will waive second-year guard R.J. Hunter, reports The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski. James Young will make the Celtics’ final 15-man roster.
The Celtics tried to find a trade for Hunter for a second-round pick, but were unsuccessful since Hunter can be acquired without sending out compensation through the waiver wire. Danny Ainge’s front office still has to determine whether to pick up James Young’s team option for the 17-18 season by Halloween.
Sources: With Young winning job, Boston wasn't able to unload RJ Hunter for a second-round pick. Celtics had to waive Hunter today.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) October 24, 2016
Hunter, who turned 23 Monday, will be placed on waivers Monday. The Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets hold the top waiver spots in that order, with Hunter likely being claimed by one or both. The Sixers have a slew of wing prospects at the back of their roster, including first-round pick Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot and former lottery pick Nik Stauskas.
If they plan to move forward with Stauskas, they may not put a claim in for Hunter and leave him to the Nets. The Nets would likely waive either Joe Harris, Sean Kilpatrick or even Luis Scola to make room for Hunter.
Hunter and Young’s battle for the final roster spot was the biggest competition in the preseason. Young had a disappointing summer league that fizzled out significantly after a solid start. Hunter came in to camp as the slight favorite, as highlighted by his shootout against Devin Booker in Vegas. His potential to be a lights out shooter from anywhere on the court is tantalizing.
But Hunter is physically far from being a reliable player on both ends of the court. He can be muscled off his spot easily and struggles to get through the lane. When he has defended NBA-level competition, his strong instincts often could not overcome superior strength, as he could be moved around off the ball and taken out of the play easily by a screen.
Hunter is without question a viable prospect and will be claimed on waivers, but he was the victim of circumstance on a Celtics roster overloaded with NBA talent.
“He’s disappointed,” RJ’s father and college coach Ron Hunter told the Boston Globe. “For a kid to get waived on his birthday isn’t the best way to celebrate your birthday. But he understands this is a business and there will be another opportunity for him.”
Hunter had a good experience in Boston, even though he played just 315 minutes in the regular season. He was given a chance in the playoffs, but struggled chasing Kyle Korver through the trees.
“He’ll move on,” Ron Hunter said. “He appreciates everything Boston has done for him. They drafted him and he definitely appreciates that. Now he goes to find his next opportunity. He knows he’s an NBA player.”
Hunter, who was the 28th pick in the 2015 draft — a pick shipped over from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for coach Doc Rivers — will be taking his talents elsewhere in the NBA.
As for Young, he exemplified how slow and steady can win the race. Young had proven to be solid in most facets of the game, and is actually shooting the ball more reliably from three than Hunter (33.3% to 29.2% this preseason). Considering Young is two years younger than Hunter, he has more room on his growth trajectory. Even though Hunter has potential for one blue chip skill over Young with his potential shooting range, Young looks more likely to be a rotation player at this point.
It is unclear at this juncture whether the decision to keep Young is more based on his viability as a player in the near future or his younger age leading to a better growth projection. Regardless, Young will still fight for minutes this season behind Jaylen Brown and Gerald Green.
He is still the age of most rookies coming into the league this year, so he has plenty of room to grow. When the Celtics drafted him, the expectation was that he would need his entire rookie contract to prove his worth in the league. Now he can still get that chance in Boston.