The San Antonio Spurs have had a great history with French prospects. A guy who they should consider taking if he’s available at 29th overall in the 2016 NBA Draft is power forward Guerschon Yabusele from France.
This isn’t the only player from the top French basketball league LNB Pro A who is being talked about as a potential late first round pick. Petr Cornelie has also been drawing significant interest from teams picking near the end of the first round.
Yabusele is a different type of player compared to Cornelie. He’s undersized as a conventional power forward at 6’8’’, but he’s very powerful, weighing in at 260 LBS.
His tough approach in the post is to be expected from a player of his weight, but Yabusele has shown grittiness on and off the basketball court. As a child, he was trained as a boxer, and he brings that same intensity to basketball.
Yabusele is still capable of hitting outside shots despite his bulk. Last season for his team Rouen Metropole Basket, he shot 3-pointers at nearly 43%.
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He has an impressive wingspan of 7’1’’, although he’s never proven to be a rim protector. Despite being undersized for his position, he’s a talented scorer. He’s capable of shooting from anywhere on the court, whether it’s from the 3-point line or grinding for baskets in the paint.
He excels as a shooter in pick-and-pop situations, and has the ability to contribute on offense in multiple regards. He isn’t limited to just being a catch-and-shoot guy, for example. He’s athletic enough to create his own shot.
He falls into some reckless habits inside in terms of shot selection, but the explosiveness is certainly there. He’s a handful for interior defenders to establish position on, utilizing his hefty frame.
For some perspective, Zach Randolph is listed at 6’9’’ 260 LBS. Yabusele has a comparable frame at 6’8’’ 260 LBS.
He’s a terrific offensive rebounder, which is something the Spurs could have desperately used in their Western Conference Semifinals loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Yabusele has the length and strength to be a great interior defender, but his lack of lateral quickness is disheartening. His ability to switch to a smaller player in pick-and-roll situations is an obvious concern. He doesn’t have nimble feet, and he’s a liability on defense if he ever gets caught on the perimeter.
Yabusele’s raw talent can benefit from some overseas development, and he would likley stay in France for the next few seasons. The Spurs are coming off a 67 win year, so it’s not as if they need this pick to make an instant contribution for them. They can afford to draft a talented player like Yabusele and enjoy his skills in the not-so-distant future.
A concern is with his current situation regarding Rouen Metropole Basket, however. Due to a lackluster season, they’ve been demoted to LNB Pro B, which is the second-tier professional league in France. LNB Pro B doesn’t feature as challenging of opposition as LNB Pro A does, meaning that Yabusele wouldn’t be as adequately prepared for NBA action in LNB Pro B.
He possesses an opt-out clause with Rouen to come to the NBA, but he’s still very raw. It’s a bit of a lose-lose situation, because he’d either come to the NBA too prematurely, or stay in LNB Pro B and run the risk of never developing against challenging enough opponents.
The best case scenario is for Yabusele to orchestrate a trade to another team that will stay in LNB Pro A, but that’s not something he can count on.
Yabusele has a lot of admirable basketball qualities. He’s a talented offensive performer who can finish near the rim as well as stretch a defense with his shooting range.
His defense is a concern, but he has the physical tools to improve. His length could help offset some of his lack of lateral quickness, but it’s going to be difficult for him to ever be an elite defender in the NBA.
His blend of strength and explosiveness on the offensive end is enough for a team like the Spurs to seriously consider drafting him, with the hopes that he can one day smooth out some of his flaws.