Thursday, April 12, 2007

Yi Jianlian: The Next Chinese Hope?

Yi Jianlian in action
Photo Courtesy: Chinatown Connection

Yi Jianlian is supposed to the next great basketball player to come from China. Slated to be a mid-lottery selection in this year's draft, the 7'0 230-pound forward mixes great finishing near the basket along with a perimeter game unbeknownst to most players of such height. According to many scouts, Yi has shown maturity and a steady basketball IQ by letting the game come to him, a trait found in very few young prospects of similar talent.

He is also the type of player that could seemingly fit into the plans of the Phoenix Suns who play an up-tempo, open-court style. In the half court, Yi can pass out of double teams and spot the open man. On defense, Yi uses his wide wingspan to clog passing lanes, force turnovers or alter shot selection.

With all of those great attributes, one question still lingers. Is he soft? After seeing the 7'6" Yao struggle defensively and be posterized consistently, I fear that Yi may have similar difficulties, especially upon entering the league. For starters, Yi has no official position that he plays. Questions about his physicality have surfaced when considering the power forward position. Meanwhile, reservations exist about his ability to shoot like a NBA small forward.

Something else to consider is the relative difficulty of the Chinese league compared to other leagues and Yi's ability to dominate in that league, especially on the defensive side. At a minimum, Yi will not have the luxury of being an athletic anomaly in the Association. As a result, the 7-footer won't be able to take possessions off.

As I see it, Yi won't be the next Saer Sene, but I'm hard-pressed to believe that he'll be able to make a solid impact as early and often as the guys drafted around him in the lottery.

1 comment:

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