Bucks Diary

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Yip-Yi or Shit-Yi?

If I understood it correctly, my brother sent me a message saying that Yi (prounounced "E") sounds the same as the word for "Yes" in Mandarin Chinese. That's ironic, because everyone I talked to around Milwaukee yesterday seemed to be giving his selection by the Bucks a resounding "No".

Myself? Not to be a fence sitter, but I'm honestly neither enthused nor disgusted by the Bucks selection of Yi Jianlian with the 6th pick in the NBA draft. Mainly because, to tell you the truth, many weeks ago I made peace with the fact that whomever the Bucks selected, that player was going to come to Milwaukee with flaws.

The only question in my mind was, what type of flawed player would the Bucks choose? They had two options. They could have made a safe pick, chosen a guy who has already established his skill set and his level of play and who could probably contribute right away but would never be anything special. Or, they could go for the "Door No. 2" option, a player who is still a work-in-progress or whose skill set is unproven, or who is physically immature, but who possesses great potential. Such a player would necessarily carry greater risk than the latter type, but would also bring a chance for far greater reward. That's what the Bucks went for in Yi.

Yi seemingly has all the tools to succeed. He's 7 feet tall and he's somewhat athletic. He has decent bulk (242 pounds). He supposedly has a nice turnaround shot, and nice form on his jumper. He supposedly can handle well for a big man. He's quick for his size, they say. And he's reportedly got a 38 inch vertical leap (which I don't buy. Watching him dunk the ball in highlight clips, he was not dunking like a great leaper dunks. He was dunking like a tall guy dunks. You know, like Bogut, not Larry Nance.) And though his upper body is weak, like Yao Ming before him, he is supported by more than adequate lower body strength (arguably a more important attribute in basketball).

So that's what he has to offer. Height, athleticism, and a slew of basketball skills: the sky's the limit for this guy, right? Maybe. But maybe not. I have some concerns.

First, while he is said to have a nice shooting touch from the perimeter, most of his offense in China came in the post. But, as I mentioned, he is very weak in his upper body, and, like Yao, he reportedly abhors contact. Reports say he will crumple whenever he is hacked, and that he has a very hard time finishing when fouled. That's troubling. The NBA is all about physical play. Oak trees survive, weeping willows die. Yi must understand that and prepare accordingly. To be an efficient producer in the Association he needs more strength in his body and more toughness in his mind.

Secondly, what position will he play? SF? Is he quick enough to play there? How will he defend the likes of LeBron James and Richard Jefferson? And on offense, does he have enough range on his jumper to play the wing? I don't know. How about PF? If he matches up against the Association's elite PFs, can he defend any of them in the box? And can he establish his own position on the offensive end? Will he rebound at the necessary pace? Can he keep opponents off the boards? All legitimate questions. How about C? The same issues arise at the center position. Is Yi physical enough to play center in the NBA? I doubt it. I'm guessing center will probably be his least occupied frontline spot.

Finally, there is the age old question that will be asked of every foreign player until they consistently prove otherwise, and must be asked of Yi in this case: does he have heart? Does he have a competitive zeal? Will he assert himself when the game's on the line? Is he willing to absorb physical punishment and answer back in kind? The answers to those questions will go a long way toward determining whether Yi is Pau Gasol or Darko Milicic.

Tomorrow I will consider how Yi fits into the roster, and what his presence may mean for the Bucks in the upcoming season.


At June 29, 2007 at 6:52 AM, Blogger Diesel said...

How about yip cabbage?

At June 30, 2007 at 8:13 PM, Anonymous Moin said...

Um, Yi might mean "yes" in Canto, but definitely not in Mandarin.


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