In their first season under head coach Luke Walton, the Los Angeles Lakers will implement a new system on the court, based more on ball movement, spacing, and a more uptempo pace. With the precedent the evolving NBA has set, the forwards and centers, such as Yi Jianlian, may see an expanded role on the court.
The Lakers signed Yi to a one-year deal that will allow him to transition back smoothly. The 28-year-old spent the last four seasons playing in China, taking a hiatus from the NBA.
The 6th overall pick in the 2007 draft provides an idealistic fit in the evolving game, with his soft touch and playmaking ability. While his ability to shoot three-pointers does fit in the expected system of Walton, his position isn’t exactly set in stone.
During the Lakers annual media day on Monday, Yi wasn’t hesitant in stating he will play whatever position the team sees fit:
Yi says he’s preparing to play both power forward and center this season (via @SpectrumSN)
— Lakers Nation (@LakersNation) September 26, 2016
Former Lakers head coach Del Harris gave a vote of confidence in the China native, stating that he fits the Lakers needs heading into the 2016-17 season.
When the Yi signing was made official, the five-year veteran stated that it is an honor to represent a franchise so heavily loved around the world. He also said China has a massive Lakers following, which can also be linked to the grand tours Kobe Bryant held during his playing days.
The Lakers held media availability when his signing was officially announced, in an effort to help acclimate him back and present him as a Laker to the media. During that media session, Jianlian stated his confidence in his ability to stretch the floor, regardless of his position.
In five seasons with four different teams, Jianlian averaged 7.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in 22.2 minutes per game.