The Nets Are Scorching

Yi Jianlian Key To Nets Success

Yi finally got what he wanted way before he was drafted by the Bucks last year…well, almost what he wanted.  He wanted to play for a big market team, he gets the Nets…sorta in between.  You see, before he even got drafted Yi showed no interest in playing for the Bucks…hell, he didn’t even work out for them.  He pulled that stunt trying to force the Bucks into not drafting him, it didn’t work, but they ended up trading him to the Nets this offseason.

OK, so after that little history lesson, let’s take a close look at this kid, yes he is still a kid (turning 21 October 27th).  First of all, Yi is a freak of nature with a tremendous (yeah, I used the word tremendous) skill set.  His size (7’0″) makes him a matchup nightmare because he isn’t a true center.  He has a silky touch from anywhere on the court free-throw line extended, which gives him the ability to face up in the post.  He is also a beast with his back to the basket.  Now don’t let his stats from last year fool you.  Sure, 8.6 PPG and 5.2 RPG a game aren’t spectacular, but lets look a little bit closer.  First, he only averaged 25.0 Minutes Per Game, a number that he is going to surpass here in Jersey.  Second, let’s look at his point guard…Mo Williams who only averaged 6 assists per game.  That is a decent number, but you got to think that most of those simply came from giving the ball to Michael Redd and letting him bomb away.  Which leads me to my theory about his rebounding numbers…the Bucks, who were usually losing, enjoying shooting the three ball.  Anyone who has ever played basketball knows that the longer the shot, the longer the rebound, which leads to interior players not getting as many.  I expect to see these numbers increase a ton this year.  He is in a situation where he is going to be happy, have a point guard who is more pass oriented, and maybe most importantly, he has a year of experience under his belt.

Now, lets look at what him being on the court means for his teammates.  First and most importantly, whenever a team decides to man-up the Nets with Yi on the court, there will be matchup problems.  With Yi not being a true center, you will usually have smaller players covering him.  That means Power Forwards and Small Forwards have the challenge of trying to stop him, in which case he will have a size advantage, and if a team is crazy enough to have a center and try to man him up, Yi will just pull them away from the basket and hit his jumper or open up the court for the Nets center (hopefully Brook).  The second thing, and I just touched on it, he will open up the court for his teammates.  Let’s say we got Yi on the high post and VC on the wing – same side.  Vince can have a nice little iso, and if Yi’s man (who is closest help defender) doubles or helps, Yi has a nice free throw line extended jumper.  If there is no help, that leaves Vince one-on-one, and he can win that match up more often than not.  Yi’s on court presence can lead to another offensive set.  Let’s say the Nets decide to try and run a pick and roll offense (and they better!).  They could do it with two different players – Vince Carter and Devin Harris.  With Devin, a quick screen at the top of the key will give him enough room to use his speed to get to the lane, which is Devin’s strenth.  After getting beat with that a few times, teams will send a double team or switch off the screen, leaving Yi wide open when he pops for a nice little jumper.  With Vince, a screen on the wing will give him a lane or a jumper, and if teams try to double or switch Yi has his jumper.

With all this being said, Yi really needs to show up this year.  A lot of what I put in the above paragraph is all dependent on Yi being happy and playing well (which I think will happen this year).  When (notice when instead of if) he does have a great year, the Nets can surprise some people.  I am going to save my prediction for later, but can somebody say playoffs?  Now, I am going to let you go with some Yi videos, enjoy:


October 22, 2008 - Posted by | Player Spotlight, Yi Jianlian


  1. Your argument is hollow.

    8/5 in 25mpg is below average, and Devin Harris is not any better as a distributor than Mo WIlliams.

    If he doesn’t contribute on a nightly basis, or more importantly and likely, if the day-to-day grind gets to Yi again, there are a myriad of PF options at our disposal. Among our bigs, Brook is FAR more important to the success of this team. His low-post scoring keeps us from becoming painfully easy to scout.

    Comment by Jon | October 22, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hey man, thanks for the comment. I am going to have to disagree with your Devin Harris – Mo Williams comment, Devin is more of a true point in my opinion with the ability to drive and kick at will. Also, his numbers will increase this year because he will without a doubt get more touches.

    Also, we can’t forget that Yi isn’t 21 yet. He is still a young guy, and that grind will effect him less and less as he gets more experienced. Most rookies hit a wall.

    And I agree with you that Brook is a huge asset for this team. I however would like to see him in at Center. Imagine the problems teams are going to have when dealing with two 7 footers one with a tough inside game, and one with a midrange game.

    Comment by Sebastian P | October 22, 2008 | Reply

  3. Yi is not a bad player but don’t think he can lead a team like Yao can. Yi didn’t really do much during the Olympics for China and he was suppose to be the second best player on the team.

    Comment by acai | October 23, 2008 | Reply

  4. First, thanks for the comment. As for Yi in the Olympics, I had a feeling watching him play that he just didn’t care to much, hopefully he was saving all his energy for the Nets. Also, the Nets don’t need him to lead, we have Vince Carter and Devin Harris to do that.

    Comment by Sebastian P | October 23, 2008 | Reply

  5. As much as I like the idea of Yi being a good basketball player in the NBA, I’m not sure that it’s going to happen. He is a seriously sub-par rebounder and post-defender if he plays at the 4 spot. And despite his height and post-moves, he’s a terrible post player because he doesn’t have the body to absorb contact, create separation, or fight off strip attempts. His offense comes almost exclusively from 15ft out, and while he’s a very good ball-handler and a very smooth shooter (both spotting up and pulling up) he’s not going to shoot more than 45% from the field and doesn’t have 3pt range. At that rate, he’s at best a bench sub.

    Still, Milwaukee wasn’t a good experience for him. Mainly, he didn’t have to earn his minutes; they were promised to him before he even came to America. I strongly suspect that this lead to some resentment from his teammates, as I honestly can hardly remember any plays being called for Yi, even when he was playing 30+ minutes a game. At times, it seemed like Williams and Redd were freezing him out, not passing the ball to him on the block or when he was wide open at 17ft. He had a great December, but the injury and subsequent loss of playing time to Villanueva really hurt his confidence; he just didn’t have his swagger anymore. Also, Milwaukee was really a mess last season. The offense was generally terrible, since there was no true point guard on the floor.

    He’d be at his best if the Nets players and coaches truly embraced him as a starter to give him some confidence, and if the Nets choose to run more. He’s not used to playing NBA defense yet, but he’s still a formidable shot-blocker. The tools are there, he just needs a good environment. So here’s to wishing Yi success as a NJ Net.

    Comment by Robin | October 25, 2008 | Reply

  6. Thanks for the comment Robin, I agree with you that his Bucks experience wasn’t great for him. I also agree that he should be starting and playing a lot of minutes. Hopefully he gets this foot situation worked out, and when he does, him and Lopez on the front court will be tough to stop.

    Comment by Sebastian | October 25, 2008 | Reply

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