If you watched Team USA destroy China this summer — both in two exhibition games, then in the Rio Olympics — you saw former NBA player Yi Jianlian put up a few buckets. The one-time Buck/Net/Wizard/Maverick big man has averaged 20.4 points on 16.4 shots per game during the Rio Olympics. He got to the line 6.2 times per game. He was the best player on one of the worst teams in the tournament.
One of those USA/China exhibitions was in Los Angeles at Staples Center, where the Lakers brass got a first-hand look at Jianlian. Apparently they like what they saw, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.
Jianlian was last in the NBA in 2012, when at age 24 he was a below-average NBA big man. He relied far too heavily on the long two (his last season in the NBA, in Dallas, 56 percent of his shots were 16 feet out to the arc) and never developed consistent three-point range. He was a decent rebounder but turned the ball over a little too much. He’s not a great rim protector.
Jianlian is a 7’0″ power forward, a spot the Lakers likely will rotate a number of good young players through — Julius Randle is the incumbent, with both Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance also able to play there. Jianlian could fight for minutes in that spot.
It’s hard to picture him as part of the future in Los Angeles, but he may be part of the short term.