Bucks Diary

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Yi looks pretty SwYit

First impression: Larry Harris made a hell of a choice. Based on one Vegas summer league game, Yi Jianlian looks like the real deal to me. He can handle the ball. He can finish at the basket (he had several thunderous dunks). He blocks shots (he had a nice wipe away early). And, he's got some terrific footwork in the post to go along with a feathery stroke.

Yi scored 23 points and grabbed 4 rebounds in 28 minutes of action for Team China. He lived in the post all night, showing none of the "wimp" factor that I had read about, and when he got the entry pass, he went to work with some nice looking baby hook dropstep moves and a great looking fadeaway jumpshot. Because of his low post aptitude and comfort level, the comparison with Pau Gasol looks most apt. I think all the comparisons I hear being made between him and Dirk Nowitzki are way off-base. Yi is a back to the basket guy who can step outside. Nowitzki is a face the basket guy who goes to the post with great reluctance.

The one thing that put my mind at ease: he's much tougher than advertised. For a guy who was supposed to "crumble" when faced with a physical opponent, Yi repeatedly schooled Memphis' Alexander Johnson in the low block, and Johnson is nobody's pushover -- in fact, he looks about as ghetto hard as they come. Yet Yi's willingness to hold his position under duress, and his far superior athleticism, were too much for Johnson. Yi scored on him repeatedly. One particular time, Yi caught the ball in the post and made a lightning quick spin on Johnson that he completed with a thunder dunk. James Worthy would have been proud.

So there was a lot of good things I saw in my first viewing of Yi. But I did spot a couple of weaknesses. He isn't the most aggressive rebounder. At his height, and his position, and with his athleticism, he should grab many more than 4 rebounds in 28 minutes. Second, he plays poor on-ball defense. When he was matched up against Memphis' Rudy Gay, he was... well, helpless. Finally, he has to cut down on the turnovers. He had 7 in the game. Granted, the Chinese guards were awful with a capital "A" (one of them couldn't dribble without repeatedly palming the ball), but still, Yi has to show much more respect for the value of each possession.

But all in all, I loved what I saw. Yi is certainly a better pro prospect than anything that was on the board at six, and I think he's clearly better than the fifth selection Jeff Green, and could be better than either Horford or Conley at this point. Kudos to Harris and company. Could you imagine if he had backed down to Yi's agents on draft night and Yi slipped to Chicago?


At July 7, 2007 at 8:32 PM, Anonymous moin said...

The other good development about the game is that the Bucks management and Yi finally met face to face and it seems the meeting was actually productive.

At July 7, 2007 at 8:43 PM, Blogger Blogmaster said...

Shut up, Moin!! They did! That is the best news I've had in a week! Never doubt Larry when it comes to Vegas courtships. The Great Wall of China is crumbling. Where did you hear about that?

At July 7, 2007 at 9:31 PM, Anonymous moin said...

It's being reported on ESPN as well. But here's something from the JS.

It's in the middle of the article, but it says that Yi met with Harris and Krys-whatever for about an hour before the game.


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