CHECK MY STATS: 易建联 (Yi Jianlian), Grape Wall of China | Wizards Blog Truth About

CHECK MY STATS: 易建联 (Yi Jianlian), Grape Wall of China

Updated: July 6, 2010

Sebastian Pruiti, founder and editor of and, has had the opportunity to watch Yi Jianlian for the past two seasons and in a conversation with Truth About It, said:

Yi is an incredibly inconsistent player.  There are days where he looks like he finally solved the puzzle and will turn into a pretty solid offensive player and then the next game he will go 2-15 from the field.  Something he has always been ripped for was [his] lack of aggression, and last year he tried really hard to dispel those thoughts…maybe too hard.  Most times he made the catch he wouldn’t even look for the shot and he’d put the ball on the floor, but teams started to pick up on it.  If he can find a happy medium he might do pretty well offensively.

On the defensive end though, he is absolutely lost.  That is part of the reason I think the Nets traded him besides the cap relief.  I don’t think he would have got much minutes this upcoming year, just because Avery wouldn’t allow his terrible defense to hurt the Nets.

That isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement of the 22 (or is it 24?) year old stretch four.  To sort out any misconceptions and better determine Yi’s worth, it’s time for another installment of CHECK MY STATS, unofficially sponsored by Synergy Sports Technology.


Where is Yi most effective (at least 60 attempts)?

Based on %Score (a measure of scoring efficiency in certain situations):

  1. Cut — 56.3% (1.05 Points-Per-Possession)
  2. Offensive Rebound — 47.7% (0.91 PPP)
  3. Post-Up — 43.5% (0.86 PPP)

In the summer of 2007, Draft Express wrote that Yi, “runs the floor like a gazelle and has an explosive vertical leap, often getting his head near rim level on his fantastic dunks.” Based on Yi’s physical traits, he is just as appealing as any center or power forward prospect in the NBA: 7′ tall, 250lbs, 7’4” wingspan, 38″ vertical.

Del Harris, the Dallas Mavericks’ consultant and coach of the Chinese national team in the 2004 Olympics said, “I think he’s the most athletic 7-footer in the league.  I don’t think any 7-footer can beat him in a race. I don’t think anybody can jump higher. It’s one thing to jump, but if you’re there too early or too late, it’s no good.”

His athleticism is most noticeable in transition (61.3%Score), where he can keep up with just about everyone on the court, and on cuts to the basket.

To the visuals:

Here, Devin Harris and Yi executed a pick and pop.
Surprisingly, Yi chose not to take the open jumper.

A quick pump fake pulled Camby another step away from the paint.
Yi passed to Brook Lopez and immediately took off toward the basket.

Yi’s quick first step left Camby in the dust and
the NJ forward was able to finish the play with an easy dunk.

The cut is a great play for Yi and it creates problems for the defending team.  Yi is fouled 18.8% of the time on cuts, and even though he doesn’t finish well after contact, he is a decent free throw shooter (80.5%).

Yi has often been criticized, and rightfully so, for his inability to be a dominant force on the boards.  In three NBA seasons, the seven-foot Yi has averaged 7.2 rebounds per game.  When you compare his rebounds per minute to other players, he performs even worse than expected.

Yi Jianlian — 1 REB every 6 4.38 minutes
Andray Blatche — 1 REB every 4.35 minutes
Roy Hibbert — 1 REB every 4.29 minutes
Amar’e Stoudemire — 1 REB every 4.02 minutes
Hasheem Thabeet – 1 REB every 3.49 minutes
Dwight Howard — 1 REB every 2.66 minutes

D-League Thabeet and the diffident Roy Hibbert haul in more rebounds than Yi? C’mon, man!  Even Amar’e, who is described as an average rebounder, at-best, has a better REB/Min than Yi Jianlian.  Being able to win the battle of the boards is imperative in basketball.  Not only do you benefit by having more offensive possessions, but you limit the second chance points opposing teams can get.  If Yi wants to extend his stay in Washington, D.C., he will have to show a marked improvement in that area.

Already, the second most effective part of Yi’s offensive game is scoring after an offensive rebound.  Yi uses his size, speed, and length to crash the boards, flush rebounds, and tip-in missed shots.  If he can improve his technique and box out, Yi will become a more consistent, efficient scorer.

His post game is still pretty raw, but he did look more comfortable operating in the low block last season, even when using his left hand.  Being more patient, deliberate, and not settling for fadeaway jump shots will make Yi a much more effective post-up player.  Not even Dirk Nowitzki shoots more fadeaway jumpers in the post game than Yi.  51.89% of Yi’s post-up plays end with a jump shot, while “only” 46.39% of Dirk’s end the same way.  However, Dirk shoots 49.8% on those shots.  Yi Jianlian? 38%.

Where is Yi least effective on offense (at least 60 attempts)?

Based on %Score (a measure of scoring efficiency in certain situations):

  1. P&R Man — 33.3% (0.74 PPP)
  2. Isolation — 38.9% (0.71PPP)
  3. Spot-Up — 42.9% (0.88 PPP)

Yi is best known for his soft inside game that matches his soft jumper.  But by %Score, Yi’s spot-up game is not as good as advertised.  Last season, Yi shot 40.5% on 224 spot-up plays that ended in a FGA, TO or FTs, which was 31.1% of his offensive output.  He ranked 215th in the NBA.

To put it simply, Yi shoots way too much. Despite playing 1,020 less minutes than Kirk Hinrich (who I highlighted last week), Yi took almost as many spot-up jumpers — 34 fewer.

It should also be noted that Yi shot jumpers on 61.1% of his P&R Man situations.  For the Nets, this was by design.  Pick and rolls with Yi Jianlian in New Jersey typically didn’t involve a roll at all.  Yi would set the screen and pop out for a jump shot.  Taking an open jump shot is usually a good thing, but not when the player shooting isn’t very accurate.  All of Yi’s jumpers also hurt the Nets in the rebounding game. With their 7′ power forward firing jump shots 16-23 feet away from the hoop, it is no wonder that the Nets ranked 28th in the league in rebounding (17th on the offensive end).

Wizards fans will remember Darius Songaila. Yi and Songaila play a very similar offensive game that is heavy on two-man pick and pop scenarios.

Last year, both had almost identical %Score in the post.  Yi had a slight edge over Songaila in spot-up and isolation situations.  Meanwhile, Songaila was much more effective in P&R Man (45.6%Score), in transition (70.8%), as a scorer after an offensive rebound (62.5%), and a better cutter (65.8%).  Neither are regarded as great rebounders, but as jump shooting power forwards.

Much like Songaila or Amar’e, Yi opts to use speed to his advantage when rolling or slipping out into space, instead of making solid contact with defenders.  John Wall had some experience running the pick and roll at Kentucky and has expressed confidence in running the NBA’s most fundamental play.  It will be interesting to see how Wall and Yi work together in the 2010 season.  Yi has better range than Songaila, so the Wizards may be able to employ a high pick and roll which would allow Wall to attack the space behind defenders as well as create open shots for Yi around the three point line.

Defensively, Darius Songaila was never spectacular, but always reliable.  Yi, on the other hand…


Where is Yi most least effective (at least 60 attempts)?

Based on %Score (a measure of scoring efficiency in certain situations):

  1. Post-Up — 49.4% (0.99 PPP)
  2. Isolation — 45.1% (0.9 PPP)
  3. Spot-Up — 44.7% (1.02 PPP)

Yi really is lost on defense.  His footwork is terrible, he gives jump shooters way too much room, gets beat off the dribble by jump shooters anyway, is schematically clueless, and gets scored on by everyone.

Take a look at the train wreck:

Yi set up in a good position to defend Andray Blatche.

Inexplicably, Yi ended up near the free throw line and
Blatche had the entire paint to himself.

Blatche finished the easy layup.  ‘Dray finished the game with 36 points.

More fun:

Yi failed to close out properly on Matt Bonner,
who is almost exclusively a three point shooter (career 40.5 3P%).

Even with the big cushion, Bonner burned the flat-footed Yi
with the slowest spin move ever.


I am at a loss as to how a player with such impressive measurables and an adequate offensive game can be as invisible as Yi is on the defensive end.  He is hopeless.  And with the Wizards re-dedication to defense, I just can’t see Yi getting much playing time. I was looking forward to Yi’s ridiculous upside, but after this evaluation, Yi looks like a practice dummy.  With limited minutes, Yi might provide a small spark off the bench, hit some shots, and grab some rebounds. Even so, I’m glad we won’t be paying him much more than $1 million (factoring in cash considerations).

His offense might be alright, but Yi wouldn’t bust a grape in a fruit fight.

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John Converse Townsend
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
John has been part of the editorial team at TAI since 2010. He likes: pocket passes, chase-down blocks, 3-pointers. He dislikes: typos, turnovers, midrange jump shots.