Yi Jianlian didn't live up to the star billing bestowed upon him when the Milwaukee Bucks selected him with the No. 6 overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft, but the Chinese standout is headed back to the Association following four years abroad.
Los Angeles Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak announced his team signed the big man on the Lakers' website Monday: “We’re excited to have a player of his worldwide accomplishments. We look forward to bringing him to training camp and hopefully having him make an impact on our team.”
The team has not disclosed the terms of the deal.
Yi averaged just 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds per game while shooting 40.4 percent from the field during his initial five-year stint in the NBA, but it wasn't stunning, considering he had to deal with dramatic changes nearly every year.
A 30-game run with the Dallas Mavericks in 2012 proved to be the end of Yi's hectic first act, at which point he went back home and shined for the Guangdong Southern Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association.
|Yi Jianlian's Regular-Season Stats in China|
Yi earned CBA Domestic MVP honors four times, averaging 26.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game while shooting 54.9 percent from the field and a career-best 37.4 percent from beyond the arc in his most recent campaign.
While those averages are unlikely to be sustainable in the NBA, Yi can focus on becoming a prototypical stretch 4 or 5 if he's able to maintain his solid shooting percentage from distance.
Yi attempted a career-high 2.1 three-pointers per game last season after mustering 0.7 per contest the year prior. In other words, he's starting to feel increasingly comfortable taking triples in a modern niche.
With the Lakers, Yi could fill that role for a frontcourt that is in desperate need of floor-stretchers.
While the team padded its depth with center Timofey Mozgov, the bruising big man hardly puts pressure on defenses. Rather, he plays the role of a conventional center who is most effective as a rim-runner below the free-throw line and second-chance opportunist on the glass.
Considering Julius Randle is still working to extend his range, Yi could serve as a low-risk flier who now has the pick-and-pop three-point chops to turn into a dependable nightly contributor.
His impact may never rival what many expected of him during the predraft process, but Yi may finally be in position to succeed in a defined NBA role.