Say what you want about Yi Jianlian and the wisdom of the trade, because there are ways to argue that it made sense. But if there's one thing we know about Yi Jianlian, it's this: he's the antithesis of a tough player. He's a jump-shooting big man that hates banging inside and doesn't rebound. No amount of coaching is going to change all of that.
I'm not saying the trade was terrible. It's not. But I am saying that the trade kind of undermines the rhetoric of getting tougher. That it happened on the same day the team spelled out this desire only makes the whole situation more ironic.
Not much of an opinion, I know. So instead, here's what everyone else is saying about it:
On the other side, you could also argue that a player can't be all that good if a team is willing to do all of that just to get rid of them. But these are desperate times for teams chasing James and overall, the Wizards feel pretty good about what they've been able to accomplish before the free agent signing period begins at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday.
There's a lot more good stuff in that link.
Really, I shouldn't be killing a team for taking a chance on a 6-11 guy who is 22 years of age, except for the way that the guy, really, isn't exactly 22 years of age. Washington only gave up the useful Quinton Ross; and though I like Ross a lot, the team's salary cap loss in trading this fourth guard for Yi was made up for by New Jersey sending the Wizards $3 million in the deal. And it really doesn't matter.
Because Yi isn't helping.
He just isn't. He'll show flashes, and he'll get hot from 20-feet and may even take in a few three-point plays (the only way this guy ever gets to the line) by following through and getting slapped on the forearm as his shot goes in, but otherwise he's pretty awful offensively despite his ability to dunk and nail long jumpers. The man boasts a 48 percent mark in true shooting percentage - a stat that takes into account your free throws and three-pointers along with your regular field goals - and that's just about as miserable as it gets for a power forward.
Keep in mind that this is the guy's all-encompassing shooting mark, a stat created to help him look better, and his entire existence is more or less based on offense. He averaged just one assist for every 36 minutes he played last season, and I'd hardly call this guy a screen-setter. He's also incredibly bad at defense. There really isn't an aspect of the game that this man exceeds in, save for playing big minutes.
Overall I like the move to get Yi ... finding time for six young bigs to play be damned. This is a ‘throw the ball out and see who wants it more' type of team. Having a roster chock-full of promise is exactly where the Wizards need to be. It's good problem to have.
And if someone falls behind the pack, send them to the D-League for seasoning. Imagine that, the Wizards using the D-League for player development. Yes, the previously unimaginable can happen under the reign of Leonsis.
But it's a good move all around, and absolutely the best thing for the kid himself -- and we hope Yi gets the last laugh on all of us, which you still cannot rule out despite his lack of instincts. He works hard enough, and he has enough talent. He just needs stronger hands, the right system, and a little luck in terms of staying healthy for six months at a time.
Yi is expected to compete for a starting position with forward Andray Blatche, who broke his foot this summer and will be out of basketball-related activities for the next three months.
Um, no. That was funny, though.
"[Other teams are] trying to clear more cap space to see what they can do with that," Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld said. "But we made the decision that we're going to save some of our powder for the future and try to right now put a core of young players together that can grow and we can build with."
For the Wizards, it gives them a talented forward who has never quite found his game in the NBA and battled injury problems. He gave the Nets 32 minutes and 12 points a game last year, but shot just 40 percent on the season. He's a forward who shot just 51 percent at the rim and is all too happy to shoot the three. He's an okay rebounder.
Washington is taking some risk based on potential. But they are building and risks are part of that process. At least smart ones.
In Yi, the Washington Wizards gain a player who can play both the small and power forward positions, and he gives them a bit of insurance while Andray Blatche recovers from foot surgery. Salary cap wise, this still allows the Wizards flexibility since Yi has a player option that the team has the option of picking up at the end of the 2010-2011 season.
Are the Wizards significantly better right now because of the recent moves? Not necessarily. But they are trying something a little different, and they seem to have a plan. It's hard to get excited over Hinrich and Yi, but there seems to be a method behind the Wizards' front office madness. And there's also some guy named John Wall who should provide plenty of entertainment regardless of how the above trades turn out.
As far as talent is concerned, Yi surely has more of it than Ross and will surely play more than Ross would have, barring a number of serious back court injuries. He has physical skills and he has size. He doesn't move laterally very well and has yet to prove he can get the separation he needs to improve his shooting. You shouldn't make any big demands of him defensively either. He's a soft, perimeter player, but he's 7 feet tall and those guys usually get multiple chances in the NBA. This is Yi's third chance.
Does the deal get the Wizards closer to being a contender in the Eastern Conference? Probably not. Unless Yi makes big strides this year he won't be worth many wins to the Wiz and there is a very good chance he won't receive the qualifying offer at the end of the 2010-11 season.
The failed Yi experiment can finally be over and the Nets are able to clear up even more cap space. While they would still be a little short for two max contracts, every dollar counts in this year's free agency and they still have the potential of moving Kris Humphries's $3.2 million contract (he picked up his option yesterday). I was originally a supporter of the Yi experiment, but after watching Yi stumble over his own two feet for the past two years, it's safe to say that any value we can get for him is certainly good. His hopefully imminent departure represents more than just a poor power forward leaving: it's a mark of both erasing an idea from the Kiki era and a statement that the Nets, while attempting to become a global brand, are looking for talent over global marketability.