Lakers: Why LA’s Signing of Yi Jianlian Was Ill Advised


The Lakers reportedly signed former NBA player Yi Jianlian to a one-year contract but what does that mean for the rest of the team?

Drafted sixth overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007, the Lakers most recent signing, Yi Jianlian, never quite lived up to his high expectations.

Instead, he had a mostly mediocre 5-year career with the Bucks, Nets and Mavericks, averaging about 8 points and 5 rebounds per game while shooting a shade over 40 percent from the field. Yi then returned to his native China, where he fared much better over the past four seasons, averaging over 20 points and 10 rebounds in each year, greatly expanding his shooting range.

But the big question is, given the Lakers roster and their supposed team goal this year, why did they sign him?

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Los Angeles is in the first year of rebuilding following the retirement of superstar Kobe Bryant and as new coach Luke Walton indicated, the upcoming season is much more about developing young talent than it is about posting wins.

At power forward, the Lakers have burgeoning potential stars in Julius Randle and Larry Nance Jr. Additionally, it is expected that Luol Deng may play the 4 position when the team goes small.

At center, Timofey Mozgov is penciled in to be the starter, backed up by Tarik Black and promising 7-foot rookie Ivica Zubac.

While it’s true that Yi could potentially have greater shooting range than any of these players, exactly how does signing him to a one year contract help the team build for the future?

Up until now, general manager’s Mitch Kupchak’s acquisitions made perfect sense. He signed Mozgov (putting aside the debate about the size or length of his contract) to fill a giant hole where Lakers had no experienced centers on their roster.

He then acquired a solid veteran presence in Deng who can only help number two pick Brandon Ingram by showing him what it takes to succeed in the NBA and by taking pressure off him to shine immediately.

Jose Calderon not only provides a veteran back-up point guard but 3-point shooting which adds to the depth of the backcourt. Even the re-signing of Tarik Black and Marcelo Huertas added depth to the roster.

But acquiring Jianlian at this point in the offseason is a real head-scratcher. Every minute that he plays is likely a minute taken away from youngsters like Randle, Nance, Black or Zubac. And for precisely what purpose? So that he might possibly help them win an extra game or two?

It is further puzzling because it was reported that the Lakers inked another big guy, Zach Auguste, to what will likely be a non-guaranteed contract. Auguste impressed during the summer league with his hustle and mobility, but is unlikely to emerge through what is now a major logjam at power forward and center.

If the Lakers’ youngsters develop as hoped, the team will move back into contention in the not-too-distant future. At this point the best course of action is to let them play and then see what moves need to be made.

Next: Lakers Officially Re-Sign Tarik Black

Unless Mozgov’s injury is more serious than has been reported, the signing of Jianlian appears to be a step in the wrong direction.