Yi Jianlian Signs With MilwaukeeRefuting critics who said that they could not pull it off, the Milwaukee Bucks signed first round pick Yi Jianlian to a contract. There had been some speculation that Yi would never set foot in Milwaukee, but it is good for the league--and will ultimately be good for Yi's development as a player--that Yi did not try to circumvent the NBA Draft. I'll be more honest than most people who are pontificating about what kind of player Yi will turn out to be: frankly, I don't know. I've only seen him play a couple times as a member of the Chinese National team (plus of course those nifty workout clips on ESPN). Yi seems to be more athletic and less physically imposing/dominant than Yao Ming. Keep in mind that it took Yao some time to adjust to the NBA--remember Charles Barkley and his infamous bet that Yao would not score 19 points in a game?
Based on Yi's poor summer league numbers and the possibility that he is actually 22 or 23 instead of 19, ESPN's John Hollinger suspects that Yi may join the ranks of Martell Webster, Dajuan Wagner, DerMarr Johnson and Tractor Traylor as sixth overall selections who did not meet high expectations. Hollinger may be 100% correct, but if we are going to use the summer league as the primary basis for projecting the arc of his entire career then what does that say about Kevin Durant? I think that as rookies Yi will struggle a lot and Durant will be up and down. Yi has the added challenge of adapting to a new country/culture in addition to getting acclimated to the NBA game. I don't think that the age factor is a huge deal, unless it turns out that Yi is 30 (which he's not). Even if Yi is 23 and it takes him three years to fully reach his potential he can still have a long and productive NBA career after that point.
posted by David Friedman @ 6:02 PM