Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Countdown: No. 13 Yi Jianlian
By Jeff Caplan
Third in a 15-part series ranking the Mavericks' 2011-12 roster in importance of bringing back next season.
From the day Yi Jianlian stepped foot in the Dallas Mavericks' locker room, the 7-footer had his own Chinese media contingent following him at every home game and some road games, too. That's right, a small crew consisting of a couple of reporters and a videographer, all quite polite, courteous and friendly, were there to get Yi's perspective, and that was mostly from his spot on the bench.
It can't be an easy job to do day after day. After all, after Yi signed with the Mavs on Jan. 6, he played in just 30 games and averaged 6.8 minutes in those games. You try coming up with questions after every game when a guy doesn't take off his sweat suit.
The problem with Yi is that he doesn't play the game to his size. He's a perimeter shooter who doesn't shoot all that great (37.8 percent this season, 40.4 percent for his career) and he doesn't get dirty much defensively or on the boards. There's just not going to be many minutes for a guy like that behind Dirk Nowitzki, or really with most teams. It's obviously one of the reasons why Yi has played for four teams in five seasons.
And why he's probably headed for a fifth in six.
And so we roll on with the Countdown at No. 13 ...
His story: The benchmark for Yi is the 2009-10 season when he averaged 12.0 points and 7.2 rebounds in 31.8 minutes a game for the New Jersey Nets. That was his last of two seasons with the Nets. He spent the next season with the Washington Wizards, averaging 5.6 points and 3.9 rebounds in 17.7 minutes over 63 games. The Wizards then said no thanks. A knee injury while playing in China over the summer kept Yi on the market into January when the Mavs signed him to a one-year deal. He might have helped himself if he could have played center on this team, but at this point in his career he is purely a perimeter player.
His outlook: The Mavs seem to like Yi's potential so there's always a chance he could be back. He'll come cheap, which is important in this summer of roster upheaval and superstar pursuit, and Yi also has another thing going for him -- he doesn't turn 25 until October. Dallas could view him as a developmental player because 7-footers just don't fall off trees. It's just difficult to get excited about the prospect of Yi having much impact on a re-tooled roster next season.