The Los Angeles Lakers signing center Yi Jianlian to a one-year deal recently was arguably the most surprising move by the team during the NBA offseason. Yi hasn’t played in the league since 2012 and was all but forgotten until making an impression on the international stage during the Olympics with the Chinese national team.
Although Yi is considered to be one of the players on the bubble throughout training camp and the upcoming preseason, the seven-footer has already impressed new Lakers head coach Luke Walton.
Walton gave some high praise to Yi for being able to stretch the floor with his impressive three-point shooting ability in a team scrimmage, via Lakers reporter Joey Ramirez:
“He’s been shooting the heck out of the ball, which is obviously something we could use: a big man that can step behind the 3-point line and help space the floor,” Walton said. “I’m a big believer in playing an open-space style of game and he’s probably our best 3-point shooter out of the bigs.”
Yi will compete for minutes at the center position. Free-agent acquisition Timofey Mozgov is expected to be the starter at the five spot after signing a lucrative four-year deal over the summer, but the backup role remains an open competition.
Tarik Black and rookie Ivica Zubac will also be competing for minutes with Yi possibly starting to distance himself due to his ability to stretch the defense. Walton’s intention to duplicate the Golden State Warriors offense in Los Angeles means they’ll rely heavily on three-point shooting making Yi an intriguing option off the bench.