When Danny Ainge selected Guerschon Yabusele with the 16th pick, it was considered a reach to grab the 20-year-old Frenchman so early in the draft. It seemed obvious that Yabusele was destined to play another year in Europe so that the Celtics could preserve a roster spot. Since coming to Boston and playing for the team in Utah and Las Vegas, Yabusele has maintained a carefree attitude this summer, just happy to be here and playing out his lifelong dream to be in the NBA. However, behind that infectious smile and ho-hum demeanor is a polished player that could be in green sooner than expected.
On the offensive end, Yabusele's biggest strength is his ability to roll and pop off picks. Versatility has been the buzzword around the Celtics evolving roster, and the Dancing Bear or French Draymond Green or whatever you want to call him fits that bill. He's got range on that fluid jump shot, and for a player his size, he moves very well and has enough of a handle that he can drive passed slower defenders.
Let's watch the Dancing Bear dance.
Nice little Euro step to avoid contact and finish with the left.
Even with Tibor Pleiss giving him a ton of space to protect the drive, Yabusele drives right around him and finishes with the nifty reverse on the shot blocker.
Here's probably my favorite sequence of the summer league so far. Guys with his frame shouldn't be able to crossover dribble on a hard show and tiptoe into the paint like that.
He's used that spin move effectively to score, but here, his defender recovers in time. Guerschon makes the adjustment and drops a dime to Jordan Mickey for the and-1. Living in LA, I've heard a lot of hype about Julius Randle and how quick he is for his size. Yabusele reminds me of Randle with more control and finish.
He's also got a jumper. He's hit 3 of 12 from behind the arc, and that isn't an anomaly. =Per DraftExpress' scouting report, he made 43% of his threes and long twos for Rouen last season.
He's not particularly tall at 6'7", but with his 7-foot-2 wingspan, he's got a high release on his jump shot. What could help as he progresses is some elevation on his jumper. It's a set shot now, but if he can incorporate some verticality to it (think Brandon Bass), he'll be more of a weapon in the mid-range.
Defensively, he's got work to do. In small-ball lineups, he'll most likely have to play the 5. His footwork is good; he's not quick enough yet to stay in front of driving ball handlers, but his lateral speed allows him to guide them away from the basket and into help. However, he does have a nose for the ball. He's averaging just under 24 minutes per game in summer league, but already he's racked up nine steals and six blocks in six games. He's got great hands that not only help him on offense but stay active on defense.
Two of my favorite summer league plays have been him diving on the floor with Jameel Warney for a loose ball and going pound-for-pound against Jack Cooley in the post, forcing jump balls on both.
And for what it's worth, it's not as if Danny Ainge drafted Yabusele based purely on upside. This is a kid that's played a full season of professional basketball in France with a full complement of starter's minutes and was arguably the team's most effective player. He's not a proven commodity in the NBA, but we have a clearer picture of what he can do compared to some unproven overseas guys like Dragan Bender or mystery man Thon Maker. With that said, he's shown promise in summer league, an exhibition that's really geared for guards and wings.
Right now, the Celtics roster stands at 13. Tyler Zeller is still in restricted limbo, but if he's brought back, that leaves one remaining spot for Yabusele and the trio of 2016 second round picks, Abdel Nader, Demetrius Jackson, and Ben Bentil. Ante Zizic has already agreed to return to Cibona Zagreb, but Nader's previously reported assignment to the Red Claws seems to be in question. Mark Murphy had previously reported that Yabusele is likely to return to Europe as a draft-and-stash, and while he's probably the most able candidate to make the roster, starting the clock on his rookie deal a year later would help the Celtics in the long term. He seems open to making that move, so wasting a rookie year on Yabusele doesn't make sense. He'd be joining a crowded frontcourt of Al Horford, Amir Johnson, Kelly Olynyk, Jonas Jerebko, and Mickey, but hey, the big fella has proven that he can already bang around a bit.