This past Monday, the Lakers signed former NBA player Yi Jianlian to a 1 year 1.1 million dollar contract. Jianlian was drafted 6th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks, but after several disappointing seasons, he retired from the NBA.
However, Jianlian turned heads in this year’s summer Olympics. He averaged 20.4 points, shot 46% from deep, and seems to have improved his physicality on defense.
Despite already having a crowded frontcourt, the Lakers signing Jianlian makes sense. He’s a 6’11 power forward who can stretch the floor and rebound well enough to play in Luke’s small ball lineups. His shooting sets him apart from other Lakers big men.
Jianlian’s best NBA season was in 2010 with the Nets. He averaged 12 points and 7.2 rebounds. It is wishful thinking to hope Yi will reproduce those stats, but Jianlian could end up being a valued trade asset or better yet, an impactful role player.
Jianlian is a low risk, high reward gamble for the Lakers. His contract is only 1 year long and leaves the Lakers with cap flexibility. Yi is also only 28, meaning he is in his athletic prime.
Yi will also help Lakers on the business side. When Jeremy Lin was on the team, the Lakers had numerous Chinese fans buying Lakers jerseys and attending the games. Jianlian will most likely bring the same attention to the Lakers.