ESPN’s David Thorpe–who also trains NBA players--wrote about Yi Jianlian in his Rookie Watch at various points between November and February of last season. Here is a selection of his comments, along with video highlights from some of Yi's more productive games:
"I enjoy watching Yi play because he often makes the right read when it comes to half-court offense — when to post, when to slip screens, when to pop out higher as a pressure-release man. He is not putting up the numbers he did early on, but based on his mental game, he will get back in gear and be a force in this league."
"Steadily making his mark, looking for his shot more and exhibiting genuine confidence. Time to ramp up the rebounding effort, though…"
"Yi’s career-high 29 points, most coming from long 2-pointers, showed that he is the other Dirk-like talent from this draft, combining excellent size with great shooting skills and movement. Adding 10 rebounds, three assists, three steals and a blocked shot is the stuff P.J. Carlesimo hopes to get from KD."
"It’s hard for the average fan to understand just how tall most of these NBA players are. Most of these players move so well that they look like much smaller men. Remember: most of the football and baseball players we see on TV are about the same height as NBA point guards, or smaller. Yi is a great example — he’s so fluid that he looks like an ordinarily-sized man, but then you’ll see him finish a hook shot by throwing the ball down toward the rim and realize he’s about a foot taller than most football and baseball players."
"Another New Year’s wall hitter is Yi, who just completed his worst three-game scoring streak of the season. Yi scored just 15 points total on 6-for-26 shooting. But I like the fact that he still grabbed 20 rebounds, blocked three shots and made three steals in those games. To get through the wall, rookies must continue fighting and work on making plays each possession."
"So far, January is proving to be Yi’s worst month in the NBA, in terms of raw production. But I still love what I see from him on most nights from a talent perspective. His level of agility and coordination is just so impressive to watch. And he knows how to play. He could see a jump in production next season, similar to Rudy Gay’s jump from 10.8 ppg as a rookie to over 19 ppg this season."
"Yi continues to surprise me with his overall talent level, because as good as Al Horford is, Yi would win a lot of arguments over who would have been a better pick for the Hawks. Yi’s got more upside as a scorer, and probably projects better as a shot-blocker, too. Having to adjust to the American game and culture (unlike Al) suggests that when he figures it out, he’ll stand alongside Durant as one of the top two rookies of this class (Greg Oden will be considered a rookie next season)."