This offseason the Los Angeles Lakers made an unexpected move when they signed Chinese big man Yi Jianlian to a one-year veteran minimum contract, although bonuses and incentives could bring the deal up to around $8 million.
Most recently, Yi starred for the Chinese National team in the Olympic Games in Rio where he averaged 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds while shooting an outstanding 46.7 percent from three-point range.
He has not played in the NBA since 2012 though, and he joins a team that currently has a crowded, young frontcourt with Julius Randle, Larry Nance Jr., Timofey Mozgov, Ivica Zubac, and Tarik Black.
None of those guys are known for their shooting and ability to stretch the floor, though, which is something that Yi does. According to Mark Medina of Inside Socal, Yi is confident he can do exactly that for the Lakers:
“I think I can still shoot the 3’s, space the floor,” said the 6-foot-11, 243-pound Yi, who averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his five-year NBA career. “I’m cool with playing the four or five.”
Yi was selected sixth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2007 NBA Draft. In five career NBA seasons, he averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds while shooting 33 percent from three-point range. In 2010 with the Nets he had his best season as he averaged 12 points and 7.2 rebounds while shooting over 36 percent on his threes.
The 28-year-old worked out with his Lakers teammates for the first time Friday, and he said he is excited to play for a team that is known globally like the Lakers are.
If Yi can prove that he can knock down outside shots consistently, then he can turn into a solid piece off the bench for the Lakers and first-year coach Luke Walton.