When the Boston Celtics selected French forward Guerschon Yabusele with the 16th pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, the reaction that most basketball fans gave was “who?” Picking this Frenchman in the first round of the draft came out of nowhere, and had fans and pundits alike searching for any info they could get on the player. Then the comparisons started.
Since Guerschon Yabusele is a 6’8” power forward who plays a faceup game, but still crashes the glass for rebounds, he was instantly compared to Draymond Green of the Golden State Warriors. For weeks, when Celtics fans were asked about their team’s draft night, they’d say the team selected Jaylen Brown and “French Draymond”. This became a bit of a new nickname for Yabusele. People who had never seen him play before suddenly believed he could be the next great Celtics power forward. The only issue was that he was a part of the “draft and stash” program, meaning he would play the 2016-17 season overseas and then come over to Boston for the 2017-18 season.
Over the course of last season, Yabusele was largely forgotten about, as the Celtics made the playoffs as the number one seed and offseason attention was turned to signing Gordon Hayward. Meanwhile, Yabusele moved from the French league to China, where he would average 21 points and 9 rebounds per game. He was named an All-Star in the Chinese Basketball Association, and when the CBA season was over, he joined the Maine Red Claws, the Celtics’ NBA G League affiliate. Yabusele averaged 18.5 points and 10 rebounds per game in his two-game stint with the Red Claws, making the “French Draymond” moniker seem like it would come true. The Celtics would sign Yabusele to their professional team in the summer of 2017, but he would sit out Summer League due to a minor foot surgery.
Over the course of the past year, the lofty expectations for Yabusele have lowered. Going into the 2017-18 season, the Celtics expect him to be a rotational big man that could get around eight minutes per game, similar to the minutes that Tyler Zeller got last season with Boston. As for play style, Yabusele does remind people a little of Draymond Green, just on a slightly lower level. The 21-year-old is still a raw prospect, and only has two games of American basketball under his belt.
For a power forward, his shooting is an asset, and he can consistently make mid-range and three-point shots. Perimeter shooting from the power forward position is something that the Celtics lacked last year, and Yabusele can supply the team with that skill. A downside to Yabusele is that at 6’8”, he is definitely undersized for his position, and he will be guarding players who are up to five inches taller than him. But Yabusele makes up for his height by playing great on-ball defense, which Celtics coach Brad Stevens and GM Danny Ainge are known for coveting. Only time will tell how Yabusele gets on in the NBA, but if the “French Draymond” moniker is anything to go off, then he will definitely be someone to watch.
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