The Los Angeles Lakers 2016 offseason -- in terms of free agency -- has thus far been a massive disappointment marked by superstar snubs and role players receiving inflated contracts. But perhaps now the team feels that its luck may be changing with its latest signing, as the Lakers announced that they have signed forward/center Yi Jianlian.
Other outlets have reported that the one-year, incentive-laden deal could be worth up to $8 million.
“We’re excited to have a player of his worldwide accomplishments,” said General Manager Mitch Kupchak in a statement. “We look forward to bringing him to training camp and hopefully having him make an impact on our team.”
Yi, a former lottery pick, is an athletic, coordinated, and skilled big man with a nice outside shot, but he has struggled to adapt his finesse game to the physicality of the NBA. Whether fair or not, he developed a "soft" label in his first NBA stint, but recently he has flourished since taking his game overseas.
Yi, who hails from the Guangdong Province in China, recently concluded competing for his country at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, averaging 20.4 points (3rd overall in group play competition), 6.6 rebounds (6th), 1.4 steals (t-6th), and 1.0 blocks (t-6th) per game over his five contests while shooting 46.7% from three-point range.
Drafted with the sixth overall pick in the 2007 NBA Draft by the Milwaukee Bucks, Yi last appeared in the NBA with the Dallas Mavericks during the 2011-12 season. Over his five-year NBA career, the 6’11’’ Yi averaged 7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, and 0.7 blocks in 22.2 minutes per game over 272 contests (163 starts) with the Bucks, New Jersey Nets, Washington Wizards, and Mavericks.
Prior to joining the NBA, the 28-year-old played professionally for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association beginning in 2002, and played the last four seasons with the organization as well. He is a four-time CBA champion, eight-time CBA MVP, and two-time CBA Finals MVP, in addition to a decorated international career that includes winning three gold medals at the FIBA Asia Championships (2015, 2011, and 2005) and gold at the 2006 Asian Games.
Frankly, the Lakers youthful roster has little to no chance of securing a playoff spot, and will need all the help it can get. Typically, these one-year deals have backfired on the Lakers in the Jim Buss era, but then again, their long term contracts have not been so great either.
A "win" with this signing would amount to Yi living up to his potential and finally understanding the physicality, defensive commitment, and rebounding tenacity it takes to be a productive big in the NBA. In other words, he should show some basic improvement from the form he displayed years ago. Otherwise, why have him take away minutes from Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr?
If on the other hand, he turns out to be the same old Yi with no additional development, confidence, or maturity, then the signing is just another example of a whiff by this front office, as the rest of the league interpreted his productive Olympic numbers to be nothing more than inflated stats on a bad team. Fool's gold.
The Lakers are banking, at least for one year, that maybe they found the real thing.
By Staff of TheDailySportsHerald.com and news services