Yi Jianlian: Art of The International Drop-Step
The most consistent post move Yi Jianlian displayed during his first two FIBA tournament games against Greece and the Ivory Coast is the drop-step/spin (I’ve yet to watch China’s third game against Puerto Rico). He’s very fluid and adept at using both hands against this international competition. Let’s take a look at some examples of his work in looping GIF form (apologies to those with slow computers/connections).
Here’s a left-handed drop-step hook Yi hit in the first quarter against Greece. He powers by 7-footer Ian Vouyoukas with the set up power dribble and then puts the maneuver in motion. Vouyoukas never really had a chance against Yi’s speed.
Here’s the angle from above, look how much ground Yi covers.
Here’s another lefty drop-step against the Ivory Coast and 6’10″ Mamadou (Herve) Lamizana, who was third team all-Big East with Rutgers in 2004.
Sure, Yi takes way too many dribbles — he takes Lamizana into the paint so purposely, it’s painfully obvious what move he’s about to make — but look how fluid that left-hand hook is.
He’s a right-hand drop-step hook that Yi initiates a little faster. Also appreciate how he gathers himself, absorbs contact, and finishes while drawing the foul.
And while we’re at it, here’s a drop-step where Yi scoops the ball off the glass with his left hand. When I spoke with David Thorpe in Las Vegas, he told me around a third, half on some days, of the shots Yi practiced at his Pro Training Center in Florida were left-handed shots. Good to see him implementing what he’s been taught.
Why focus so much on Yi’s drop-step move? Well, it’s a low-post move that you’ll never see from JaVale McGee, and one that you’ll rarely, if ever, see from Andray Blatche. And considering the rest of the current roster, it’s not far-fetched to say Yi is the best, if not only, low-post scorer the Wizards have. Okay, Blatche can make a low-post move when he wants to.
And again, as you are surely thinking, this is against international competition that cannot compete with the combination of size and athleticism Yi will see on most nights in the NBA. But it’s nice knowing he has the tools, and is ambidextrous with that baby hook shot. Although, he needs to make it not so evident he’s turning his shoulder baseline each time.
There are some things Yi hasn’t done well in FIBA competition so far, and those will be covered. But I’m under the impression that the negative acts he has shown, mainly forcing/settling for isolation shots, sometimes out of necessity because his team needs a basket, are acts that he won’t have a chance to do with the Wizards.
Running the floor and offensive rebounding are strengths Yi has put on display while in Turkey. He’s shown toughness, mostly attitude-wise, that many haven’t seen out of him before. Now he needs to make that more consistent, and make sure he always brings physicality with his toughness.
I’ve seen Yi search for a man to box out while the ball is in the air — again, rare actions from Messrs. Blatche and McGee. I’ve also seen Yi get pushed under the basket because he’s not getting low and using his butt for leverage, especially late in the game when his legs are tired.
Of course, Yi’s minutes with the Wizards will be a fraction of what they are now. If he can focus on high levels of effort while he is in the game, and as Flip Saunders would surely say, get used to his role of coming off the bench, it wouldn’t be out of line to say Yi Jianlian has 6th Man of the Year potential.
What? I said “potential.”
To be continued …