"The Chairman" has had anything but a sustained position within the NBA since the time he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in the 2007 draft as the sixth overall selection. The talented 7-footer from China had NBA scouts and executives drooling over the potential in which they saw in the alleged youngster at the time.
Yi Jianlian's NBA career totals (7.9 points, 4.9 rebounds, 0.7 blocks) are far from terrible numbers, but are still seen as dissapointing totals with regard to his skill set, size, and still possible upside.
The big man logged some minutes in the D-League last season for the Texas Legends, on an injury rehab assignment with the Dallas Mavericks. Yi made quick use of his time, posting impressive numbers, ultimately forcing the Mavericks to recall him.
Injuries have been a major issue for "The Chairman", his latest coming in China's game with Austrailia where Yi was carried off the court due to a knee injury. It would later be diagnosed as a strained MCL, just another injury to add to a lengthy list that has now put fear in NBA team executives.
His brief yet successful D-League stint, coupled with his impressive Olympic performance (averaging 14.8 points and 10.2 rebounds) has to have NBA onlookers eager to roll the dice on Yi again. However, with no reported word from any NBA teams regarding a training camp invite just yet, Yi's NBA window just may have finally closed. Take the jump and find out if the D-League could be an option for Yi to get back to the NBA once more.
Thursday, September 20, another highly regarded NBA draft "bust" was granted a 1-year deal with the Boston Celtics. Darko Milicic, who hasn't had nearly as many injury issues (but certainly the hype that Yi received), was given the opportunity at providing the C's with some front court depth.
This is what Yi could ultimately supply an NBA team with, however, many believe his game isn't suited for the down- low play found in the NBA. This is where some time back in the D-League could benefit him.
If Yi found the right team in the D-League to help coach the skilled big man with the necessary tools to grind it out on the blocks, perhaps he could find a position similar to Darko's back in the NBA?
With NBA teams handing out training camp offers, and the reports stating that Yi's main goal is to play in the NBA (despite alleged alluring offers from recognized International teams), the time is either now or never for the once highly touted international player.
For Yi's sake, hopefully it won't be another injury to keep the once considered "next big thing out of China" from donning an NBA uniform once again. If Yi's ultimate goal is to play in the NBA again, and a training camp contract doesn't land in his lap soon, the D-League could be a perfect fit for an NBA return for "The Chairman".