The Dallas Mavericks have a void on their frontline that was previously anchored by Tyson Chandler. It appears they are now hoping the 6’10” Yi Jianlian can fill that void. At least a little bit I guess.
Depending on where you come out on the subject of Yi, you might be skeptical. Since being declared by Fran Fraschilla on draft night back in 2007 as “the Hip Hop version of Yao Ming”, Yi hasn’t exactly lived up to expectations. For sake of clarity, we’re assuming the Hip Hop version of Yao Ming is a good thing.
Yi hasn’t been necessarily bad though too. Through 242 games over four seasons, Yi has averaged over 8 points and 5 rebounds per game. Serviceable in a lot of respects, but not the reward you’d hope for after investing the 6th overall picks that the Milwaukee Bucks did initially.
Which is not to say the Mavs are spending anywhere near the 6th Round pick here, in bringing in Yi on essentially a flier, and they could be rewarded for taking a chance on a guy who is still only 24 years old.
According to ESPN’s Marc Stein, Yi will be initially sent to play for Del Harris and the Texas Legends, then go from there:
The Dallas Mavericks are about to sign a player they’ve long coveted, reaching terms Saturday on a one-year contract with free-agent forward Yi Jianlian, according to sources with knowledge of the deal. The contract is likely to be finalized within the next 48 hours, sources said.
The 6-foot-10 power forward has spent the past four seasons in the NBA but was still available in free agency thanks in part to a knee injury Yi suffered during a brief stint playing for the Guangdong Southern Tigers, after helping the Chinese national team clinch a spot in the 2012 London Olympics earlier in the summer.
Sources told ESPN.com that Yi will join the Mavericks’ D-League affiliate Texas Legends in nearby Frisco on a rehabilitation stint before joining the Mavericks to help reacquaint the 24-year-old with full-speed basketball.
Sources said Yi also considered signing with the Golden State Warriors and San Antonio Spurs before settling on Dallas. Playing in the D-League would reunite him with Legends coach Del Harris, who coached China to an eight-place finish at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.
I think that last point maybe be important here. Harris’ familiarity with Yi could prove to be beneficial in his ultimate insertion into the Mavericks line-up. Additionally, Yi is coming off some solid outings recently while playing overseas prior to getting hurt in China. He averaged 16 and 11 this summer for the Chinese National team while helping lead them to a title, and was playing solid in the CBA as well before suffering an injury in his fourth game during the Lockout.
What’s also interesting is in the nine seasons Tyson Chandler played in the NBA prior to arriving in Dallas he only averaged 7.9 points per game, as compared to the 8.5 ppg average Yi’s posted so far in his four year career. Sure, Yi doesn’t exactly bring it on the defensive end, and Tyson did average a few more rebounds per game, but you could certainly argue that a guy like Dirk can only help your production. We’ll see if it has that effect on Yi.