Buck Wild with the Trigger

Well, after a long period of immersion in LeBronorama and draftomania, it’s time for me to focus on the Warriors once again. I’d originally planned on covering the free agent outlook and my strong dislike for the current salary cap rules, but too many people have been discussing the prospect of the Warriors trading up to get Yi Jianlian, and it's my job to talk about it.

Chad Ford has been Yi’s biggest proponent in the mainstream press (FYI: link is ESPN insider), likely because he’s one of the few people in the mainstream press to have seen him play. Ford gets a lot of flack for repping Darko hard before the 2003 Draft, but he still knows his stuff, so we shouldn’t assume that any Euro (this term knows no continental boundaries) is going to fall on his face. Ford seems to think Yi’s a star in the making; he’s rated him as the #3 prospect in the draft and seems to think he’s the next Dirk.

Yi looks like an athlete with solid—but raw—skills. He seems to have a pretty solid handle for someone his size, and the YouTube above shows that he can unleash some pretty fantastic dunks. But plenty of overseas folks have been able to do that—the real issue is if he has a mean streak and a willingness to do whatever it takes to get better. Those things might not become clear until he struggles against people close to his level, and the Chinese league just doesn’t have those kinds of players.

Then there’s the whole age issue. China says Yi’s 19, but several sources have said he’s actually 22, with nbadraft.net going so far to just list his birth year as 1984. Obviously, he’s not as good a prospect at 22 as he would be at 19. At the same time, 22 is college-senior age, and they’re not ancient men.

So let’s assume that the reports are true, and that the Warriors are willing to move into the Top 5 to get Yi. Any trade would certainly have to involve some combination of Monta Ellis (don’t take away my baby!), Jason Richardson (as I said earlier, I’m willing to trade him for the right player), Al Harrington (I would shed no tears), and the #18 pick (no problem at all). Any trade would likely have to happen with Atlanta (#3) or Boston (#5) due to the fact that NBA teams rarely trade with teams within their own conference. With its large Asian community, the Bay Area would welcome Yi with open arms and I’m sure the Chinese government would happily send him here.

But why would a team looking for rebounding and interior defense move up to get a versatile scorer with questionable skills in the paint? If Mullin wants to trade up, wouldn’t Al Horford, a bruising power forward who can rebound and defend, be a much better fit? Come to think of it, I’d rather have Corey Brewer, who I see becoming the next Josh Howard. Yi could eventually become an all-star, but he’ll get there by being an offensive threat. Is it worth selling off proven players for an unproven player with tons of question marks?

The fact of the matter is that the Warriors go as Baron Davis goes, and he’s an injury prone player who could fall apart at any minute. With that in mind, the front office should focus on
maximizing the years he has left. Let us not repeat the mistakes of years past.

1 comment:

Ben Q. Rock said...

Yi seems like a good match for Golden State insofar as he's already acclimated to the California lifestyle. He's also a big guy who can run, evidently, and that works under Nellie's "system."

The Warriors should trade up to get Yi if they are sold on him, but NOT if it costs them Monta. He shows too much promise to justify trading him.