The Los Angeles Lakers are entering the 2016-17 season with an optimistic outlook. While the young core is expected to take a leap in production, general manager Mitch Kupchak also added some proven veterans this offseason.
Entering the first training camp held at Santa Barbara, the roster will feature plenty of battles regarding earning the last spots on the roster. The battle for the power forward and center spots will be one to watch, as each player brings a different style of play to Luke Walton’s new offense.
While the Lakers are moving to an up-tempo style in the evolving NBA, the ability to space the floor will be key. That was likely the thought process in the signing of Yi Jianlian, a fifth-year veteran returning to the NBA for the first time since 2012.
Yi has a partial guarantee on his one-year contract, but it can be worth up to $8 million depending on how many games he ultimately plays for the Lakers this year.
But that could be getting ahead of things as Kupchak stated that Yi’s spot on the roster is not guaranteed:
Mitch Kupchak on Yi Jianlian: "He’s going to have to earn his way on this team also."
— Serena Winters (@SerenaWinters) September 27, 2016
The 28-year-old will compete against the likes of Zach Auguste, Tarik Black, and Iviza Zubac. However, Yi possesses a key ability to space the floor unlike the others which could be a big difference during camp and preseason.
Yi reiterated his confidence in spreading the floor, with a 40% field goal percentage during his NBA career. However, the 2007 draft pick had an impressive showing during the Rio Olympics. He averaged 20.4 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, with a 46.7% three-point field goal percentage and 43.9% field-goal percentage.
Yi will have to prove his ability in Walton’s new system, in order to fit into the rotation going forward. While spreading the floor is a valuable asset, his overall game will have to demonstrate an ability to adjust back into the competitive level of the NBA.