Yi Jianlian in D.C.? Bring it on. | Wizards Blog Truth About It.net

Yi Jianlian in D.C.? Bring it on.

Updated: June 29, 2010


Mere minutes after the introductory press conference of 2010 draft picks Trevor Booker and Hamady N’Diaye ended, rumors began to surface that Ernie Grunfeld had another trade up his sleeve to absorb the Wizards’ cap space while gaining misspent potential in the process.

The team has officially announced that they will acquire 2007 sixth overall draft pick Yi Jianlian from the New Jersey Nets in exchange for Quinton Ross. New Jersey will also send Washington “cash considerations,” estimated to be $3 million.

Ross recently exercised a player option that will pay him $1,146,337 next season. Jianlian is set to make $4,050,499 in 2010-11 with a qualifying offer of $5,403,366 for 2011-12.

The Nets obviously swing this trade because Yi has been a disappointment and they’re hungry for cap room to acquire a top tier free-agent or two (aka The Race for LeBron). The Wizards gain a player who is still a prospect, one who certainly has more promise than Quinton Ross, for essentially nothing since they are getting cash from New Jersey.

Acquiring Jianlian doesn’t necessarily strap the Wizards’ cap space for the Summer of 2011 either. His contract will be in the same qualifying offer situation that Al Thornton ($3,914,547) and Nick Young ($3,695,857) will face next summer. If none of those three players perform up to snuff, the Wizards can elect not to extend any one the qualifying offer, as the team appears to be doing with Randy Foye this summer, potentially clearing nearly $13 million off the books.

But why Jianlian?

He’s soft, not quick or athletic, and could be three or four years older than his “documented” 1987 birthday. His shot, supposedly one of his strong points as a “stretch four”, has not proven to be consistent. As far as Nets fans are concerned, Yi is a bust … even if he was a conduit to them being able to get rid of Richard Jefferson.

Why not? With only Al Thornton currently slotted at small forward, the Wizards are in need of a SF/PF (or “stretch 4″/”wing big”) with the ability to shoot from the outside, keeping John Wall in mind. They have the cap space and the time/patience to look at a once highly thought of prospect, if only for a year.

The Wizards also just got a lot more international. They drafted Hamady N’Diaye from the Senegal (more on him soon), are expected to get Kevin Seraphin out of French Guiana from the Bulls as part of the trade for Kirk Hinrich, are rumored to have China’s Sun Yue (who once worked out for the Wizards in 2007) on their Vegas Summer League roster, and have now acquired another Chinese player in Jianlian.

Makes one wonder if the low-risk foray into the Chinese market has anything to do with Leonsis & Co. wanting to get a lot more exposure for the team and their “Great Wall” face of the franchise … which could also be seen as an investment.

Darren Rovel of CNBC’s Sports Biz tweets, “With Yi Jianlian leaving the Nets, will their 6 Chinese sponsors follow him to the Wizards?”

Who knows, but millions of Chinese will surely tune their basketball focus toward the capital of America next season. Have I mentioned that the Wizards play in Chinatown?

However, Devin Kharpertian of NetsAreScorhing.com isn’t so high on the potential of Yi and Wall on the court together. “Now John Wall can have his soul slowly sucked out of him as he throws beautiful alley-oop passes to Yi that he can’t finish,” Kharpertian writes, also opining, “Today is a great day in Nets history.” Well then.

Seems like the Grunfeld and the Wizards have now helped both the Bulls and Nets acquire LeBron James so they can dominate the world while taking no prisoners … even if Bron ends up in Miami with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.

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.

The Yi Jianlian era in D.C. … bring it on.


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Kyle Weidie
Founder / Editor / Reporter / Writer at TAI
Kyle founded TAI in 2007 and has been weaving in and out the world of Wizards ever since, ducking WittmanFaces, jumping over G-Wiz, and avoiding stints on the DNP-Conditioning list. He has covered the Washington pro basketball team as a member of the media since 2009. Kyle currently lives in Brooklyn, NY with his wife, loves basketball, and has no pets.