Why can't Yi be the Mandarin Kevin Garnett?
If last week's posts had you thinking -- to quote Rip City -- "Whoa, whoa, whoa... you know absolutely nothing", wait till you hear the latest thesis I've cooked up.
If we fed a steady diet of cannibal sandwiches to Yi Jianlian he could become a Chinese facsimile of Kevin Garnett.
I think its possible. I'm serious. Stop laughing.
These playoffs have convinced me that Yi Jianlian can provide the Bucks with a piece of the championship puzzle that resembles Kevin Garnett. This time I have no statistical evidence to back up my argument. In fact a comparison of the statistics would make my argument seem loony. No, this is what I usually hate... an eyeball evaluation.
And my eyes tell me that the two have, essentially, the same tools except for two psychological tools -- confidence and determination. Garnett has those (except at the end of playoff games), Yi never has them, or at least he has yet to show them if he does have them.
Think I'm stoned? Do this. Imagine for a moment that Yi and Garnett changed personalities. With that change, could you see Yi playing just like Garnett? I can... or at least I can come pretty close.
Ironically, what brought me to this whole notion was seeing Garnett's obvious weaknesses on display this postseason. They are identical to Yi's. I am specifically referring to:
The lack of an inside game. Like Yi, Garnett has no post up game whatsoever. None. He compensates, though, with those short range jumpers. Yi has to get that into his game.
The propensity for jumpshots. I thought this would kill Yi. But, statistically, Garnett actually shot a higher percentage of jumpshots this season (72%) than Yi (69%). In the playoffs, Garnett's jumper percentage has actually increased (74%).
The strength issue. Garnett proves you can make up for lack of strength with sheer desire and great instincts. At the moment Yi has neither. But can Skiles instill them?
Why my argument is nuts and why it may not be
1. Garnett's a good shooter, Yi isn't.
Garnett can get away with being a jump shooter because he can actually shoot, whereas Yi can't. Valid point. But not so fast my friend. Its true Garnett shot jumpers much better than Yi last year. But I believe that Yi is actually the much better shooter. Why? Free throw percentages. I believe free throw percentages eventually correlate with shooting ability, and here Yi is much better. Garnett is a 70% free throw shooter. Yi is an 84% free throw shooter. So I have hope for Yi in this regard. Its rare to find a guy who can stroke it from the line at +80% who does not eventually become a very skilled jump shooter (Stackhouse being the exception, but he's got a really weird jump shot).
2. Either you rebound or you don't. Yi doesn't.
That's what I thought, too. But I went back and looked at Garnett's first two seasons it turns out his rebounding rate was 0.20 per minute, identical to Yi's last season. So, obviously you can develop into a tenacious rebounder. The question of age comes up, though Is Yi, at 21, too old to learn the same new tricks? Is his game too set in its ways? Again, the Skiles factor. Perhaps Skiles can "properly motivate" Yi into becoming a rebounder.
3. Garnett may not be a post player, but he's a finisher
This, I think, is the absolutely crucial point. This is where the rubber meets the road. Garnett can get away with having no post game because when he's near the basket he can put the ball away. So far, Yi shows very troubling signs in this area. When Yi was in close this year, couldnt' finish at all. His inside FG% was a pathetic 21%. Maybe Spud Webb could be proud of that, but not a seven footer. That is horrible. Can he adapt and learn to get his shot off in close, or to play with lower body strength? That's the key issue, more than anything else. Again, however, a lot of it boils down to mentality. Can you change Yi's personality?
Are we going to look back on this post in a couple of years and have a laugh when Yi's back in China planting rice? Who knows.
But I don't think my notions are that far fetched. Yi and Garnett are almost identical in size, and their games are pretty close when it comes to skill set (Garnett's more explosive, but Yi can surprise you). And watching Garnett this postseason, he's shown you can play around the liabilities in Yi's game.
But you need determination and motivation and aggression. Without that, Garnett is Yi (in fact, at the end of games, doesn't he look a lot like Yi... that's essentially where my thesis came from). With it, can Yi become a reasonable facsimile of Garnett? I think its possible.