Friday, June 6, 2008


Chad Ford is at it again. In a recent article, he threw out the rumor of a strong possibility that the Warriors would pursue Yi Jianlian of the Milwakee Bucks using Brandan Wright and the #14 pick.

Look for the Golden State Warriors to pursue Milwaukee Bucks forward Yi Jianlian strongly in the coming weeks. During last year's draft, the Warriors agreed to trade Jason Richardson to the Charlotte Bobcats for the No. 8 pick, with the hope that Yi would fall to the Bobcats at that spot.

The team was shocked that the Bucks, for whom Yi refused to work out, took him at No. 6. The Bobcats took Brandan Wright and traded him to Golden State. While Wright played well for the Warriors toward the end of the season, they still covet Yi, according to sources.

If the Warriors were to offer Wright and the No. 14 pick for Yi, that might be too much for the Bucks to pass on. The team is in rebuilding mode and might be ready to accept a two-for-one deal.

At first glance, I would be dead set against this type of deal, but the more I think about the financial impact and Yi's ability to fit perfectly as Don Nelson's ideal 4, things get a little less cut and dry. Nelson has made it known that he is open to coaching beyond this season and perhaps a PF in the mold of Dirk Nowitzki could be the missing ingredient to a contending Warriors team.

Yi - Wright Comparison

Brandan Wright

We pretty much know Brandan Wright's game. He's extremely long, athletic, runs the floor well, finishes well in transition, blocks shots, has adequate handles, and rebounds at a good rate. Wright is very active in the paint and has terrific hands that catch anything thrown his way. His release point is so high that no one can block his shot. Wright needs additional work on his post moves and footwork, and he needs to shoot the ball better from 10 feet on out. His shooting form is not smooth, so there are doubts whether he could ever become a consistent mid-range shooter. At age 20, he still has a ton of room to grow, but his body also needs to fill out and get stronger to compete night-in, night-out as a starting PF in this league.

Wright didn't get to play much, but when he got on the floor, he was as productive as any rookie:

SEASON FG% FT% P/40 R/40 A/40 TS% Ast TO Usg Reb PER
2007-08 .554 .675 16.1 10.5 1.0 58.3 5.9 8.6 14.5 14.1 17.29

Game Log

2007-2008 Brandan Wright Highlight Reel
by BBJ

Yi Jianlian

He started off well his rookie year but as the season wore on, his production decreased, efficiency went south, and his body seemed to break down from the wear and tear of the incredible amount of basketball play he had to endure the entire year. He played in the CBA, toured with the Chinese National Team, then went straight to the NBA season with little time for his body to recover. There was no doubt that he hit the 'Rookie Wall' big time.

SEASON FG% FT% P/40 R/40 A/40 TS% Ast TO Usg Reb PER
2007-08 .421 .841 13.7 8.3 1.3 48.5 7.5 12.3 16.9 12.3 11.28

Game Log

Pre-Draft Scouting Report From Draft Express:

Scouting Report

To start, the sheer physical traits that Yi offers are just as appealing as any power forward prospect that the 2007 NBA Draft has to offer. Standing 7’0 or more and nearly 250 lbs., he owns ideal size for a center prospect, let alone a power forward. Yi has a frame that could surely add more weight to it as well, as his massive lower body is combined with a relatively underdeveloped upper body. Length is not a problem for the Chinese big man, as he possesses a massive wingspan. He runs the floor like a gazelle and has an explosive vertical leap, often getting his head near rim level on his fantastic dunks.

Consistently throughout the past 3 years, Yi has proven to be a reliable scorer, no matter who the competition may be against. Even in International competition in which Yao Ming is receiving the vast majority of touches, he always seems to find a way to put at least 10 points on the board in one way or another. Yi’s offensive game certainly has its limitations, but the things he does well on the offensive end allow him to be the player that he is today.

Jianlian scores the large majority of his points through drop-offs, offensive rebounds, spot-up jump shots, and turn-around jumpers out of the post. His great hands and explosive leaping ability have enabled him to be a very good finisher inside, dunking the ball at every available opportunity. Yi converts basically everything he touches inside of five feet from the rim, even initiating the contact at times and making his way to the foul line.

Despite Yi’s solid frame however, he does not absorb contact very well on the offensive end. It is a common occurrence to see him crumble with the slightest contact, an anomaly for a player weighing nearly 250 lbs. It is very rare that you will see Yi converting a basket on which he has been fouled, as the contact the he receives usually is enough to throw his shot off, and he lacks the toughness to fight through it.

In the post, Yi has two moves that he goes to virtually every time he touches the ball: A turnaround jumper and a right handed jump hook. You will very rarely see him go with anything else than these two moves, looking awfully awkward when trying to do so. Yi is able to turn to either shoulder with his turnaround jumper, with range out to about 14 feet from the basket. The right-handed jump hook that he possesses is not on display as much, but when he does go to it, he exhibits great extension and converts at a very high rate.

Facing the basket is where Jianlian ultimately seems to be most comfortable, however. He has already proven to be completely adapted to playing in a “pick and pop” type system, honing his jumpshot to the point that he is pretty much automatic from 19 feet and in. Although there seems to be this notion going around that Yi is an outstanding three point shooter, the Chinese big man shot just under 20% from the International three point line this past season, disproving that idea. He looks much more comfortable and is much more accurate when shooting the ball one step in from the three point line, around the 18 foot mark.

When Yi looks to put the ball on the floor, he dazzles scouts with his blinding first step for a seven footer. He has shown that he can blow past virtually any other player his size, both in International competition and in the CBA. Jianlian’s ball-handling skills are not great by any stretch of the imagination, though, as he primarily puts the ball on the floor one or two times to get to the rim, and relies more so on his athleticism then on his actual ability to handle the ball.

Decision making is an area that Yi certainly must improve upon, given the fact that he is incredibly turnover prone at the moment. He does not do a very good job reading the defense out of double teams, often forcing passes with little to no room at all. Yi just does not look too comfortable with the ball in his hands when pressured, something he must surely improve upon if he hopes to reach anywhere near his full potential in the NBA.

On the defensive end, Yi has all of the tools to eventually become an outstanding defender, but has yet to fully realize them. He has the length, athleticism, lateral quickness, and frame that many of the top defensive power forwards offer. Despite all of these tools, Yi remains an average defender at best in the low post, a marginal shot blocker, and a relatively poor rebounder.

Yi struggles quite a bit defensively on the low block, often giving up position far too deep to opposing post players. In a game that we recently observed versus former Xavier 6-9 big man Anthony Myles, he was abused guarding him both facing the basket and in the low post. Myles was able to get past Yi on the perimeter, while also using his strength and crafty play to score on him on the blocks through a series of up and under moves, fully utilizing his body to get shots up against his taller, more athletic counterpart.

While Jianlian exerts excellent leaping ability, his timing and inability to utilize his strength hurt him mightily as far as his shot blocking is concerned. When pegged against Myles (and also 6-7 former Auburn power forward Chris Porter for that matter), he was muscled under the basket to the point that he was unable to even contest the undersized post players’ shots. The blocks that Yi was able to get were only because he is so much longer and more athletic than the other players on the floor, a testament to how much of a freak show he truly is physically.

Rebounding is one area that Yi drastically needs improvement upon, on both ends of the floor. His effort crashing the offensive glass lapses quite frequently, as many times he just stands around the perimeter instead of attacking the rim. Defensively, Yi relies completely upon his athleticism to corral rebounds. He does a very poor job boxing out and often finds himself pushed underneath the basket, unable to even contest for rebounds. Yet again, not what you would expect out of a freak athlete standing seven feet tall and weighing nearly 250 lbs.

While we have went over many of the strengths and weaknesses present in Yi right now, the potential that he has is just as good, if not better than anyone in this draft not named Greg Oden or Kevin Durant. His offensive repertoire is very limited at the moment, and if Yi’s back to the basket game expands, he has the potential to truly become a special player down the road. Even though it has been evident that Yi did not exert maximum effort during stretches of games during the CBA season, there is some hope that he will find the motivation to give a better effort once he reaches the NBA.

Yi Jianlian Highlights 2007
By phil12p345

NBA Rookie Yi Jianlian Career High 29 points game Bobcats

by Yao2k7

Wright and Yi are fairly close talent-wise, but there is a significant difference in each of their games. Wright is more of a low post scorer with more quickness and athletic ability. Yi is a perimeter oriented big man that has trouble scoring in the post. Yi's true age is unknown but he's approximately 2-4 years older than Wright. This important issue tilts the scales in favor of Wright being the superior overall prospect. Yi can eventually develop into a star, but Wright will most likely have a better chance of pulling it off.

If you buy that Wright is the superior overall player, why even make a trade. Two reasons: how well the player fits into your system and what the players impact would be on the franchise as a whole.

Nelson loves bigs that could create mismatches because of their outside shooting. Yi is a good shooter from 18 feet on in and a decent threat from 3-point land. This frees up the middle from Baron, Richardson, Ellis, and Jackson to penetrate in the paint and gives Biedrins plenty of room to operate. He's athletic enough to hang with Nelliball and experienced enough to make an immediate impact.

Let's face it, any team with Yi instantly becomes the favorite team of a billion fans in China. The additional revenue that could be generated through attendance from a large Asian population, television game rights, commercials, endorsements, and merchandise sales could be astronomical. This money could allow the team to sign or trade for any player regardless of whether the team goes over the Luxury Tax or not. If the Warriors had Yi and the perks that come along with drafting him, perhaps Jason Richardson would still be on the team and Mullin would be free to sign better Free Agents instead of over-the-hill vets well past their primes. Money would no longer be such a major issue when it comes to signing talent. Imagine this lineup:

PG: Davis/Ellis/Steve Blake*
SG: Richardson/Azubuike/Belinelli
SF: Jackson/Pietrus/Barnes
PF: Harrington/Yi/Carl Landry**
C: Biedrins/Mikki Moore*/O'Bryant/Perovic

* Free Agency
** Outbid Portland for Pheonix's #24 Pick

If Milwakee benefits from all this extra revenue, why trade him away? He didn't want to play in Milwakee and will likely refuse to resign with the team in 3 years. Why not get value for him now? Brandan Wright has more upside and if you add the #14 pick, you could have two very good pieces to help quickly rebuild the Bucks. Warriors could sweeten the deal if necessary by adding cash, Pietrus, Azubuike, use of Trade Exception to take on Buck's bad contracts.

PG: Williams/Sessions
SG: Brandon Rush (#14)/Mason
SF: Redd/Anthony Randolph (#8)
PF: Villanueva/Wright
C: Bogut/Gadzuric

Considering Yi alone will not get the Bucks to the playoffs within his short stay (because he's simply not that much of a factor on the court and will probably only make modest advances in his game moving forward) Wright + #14 is a very good offer. This draft is deep enough for them to land a future star at the end of the lottery - perhaps even a future All-Star.

With that being said, is it worth it for the Warriors to do a Wright + #14 for Yi? I say that it depends on who is there at #14. If there are no impact bigs like Love, Speights, Arthur, or Jordan that fall to the spot, then I would probably do the deal. Otherwise, I would have to think long and hard about it. Yi would bring more than another perimeter threat that could play PF or C. He would bring in revenue that could allow the Warriors to become a team the shuns the Luxury Tax and goes after which ever player they covet. That could mean greater flexibility in acquiring talent, but then again, it doesn't guarantee wins (see the Knicks).

If I had to decided today, I would say NO DEAL, stick with Wright and get the best available player with the #14 pick in a particularly deep draft. I trust that a drafting team of Mullin, Nelson, and Richmond could net the Warriors an impact player that would bring the fanchise equal success in the long run.

1 comment:

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