Jianlian Yi, F, China (currently ranked No. 12) Stats at Worlds: 17.6 mpg, 6.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg Yi is one of the great mysteries of international ball. At one time, people were convinced that he was born in 1984, then 1985, but when China announced his birth date as 1987 two years ago, just about everyone raised their eyebrows. How old is he? Does it even matter? To the first question, no one knows. I spoke to two scouts who spend a lot of time in China and both told me that they thought he was older than his listed birth date, but didn't have a firm grip on just how much older he is. As to the second question, it depends on who you ask. If he's really that young, then Yi is doing amazing things for a kid his age. If he's really 22, then he's been dominating at international junior tournaments against kids two to three years younger than him. That matters. Regardless, scouts came away impressed with what they saw of Yi at the Worlds. While the Chinese coaches inexplicably didn't play him much, he also had his best game against Team USA, posting a line of 13 points, seven rebounds and two blocks in 24 minutes. Yi has the size, skill and athleticism to be a legit NBA lottery prospect. The question is: When will China allow him to come over? There was talk that he'd declare for the draft last season, but at the last second, he couldn't get permission. This week the talk is that he'll definitely be in the draft, especially after impressing scouts in Japan (the rest of his games were less impressive, but scouts blamed much of that on coaching and opportunity). But given China's reluctance to fully open its borders to the NBA, I'll believe it when I see it. If Yi declares, he's got a good shot of going in the lottery as long as teams can be persuaded that he will be able to come directly to the NBA and won't have to leave every summer (and thus stifle his progression) and go back to China. If they can't get those assurances, he might slip a little bit until the upside outweighs the risk.
Definitely check out the rest of Ford's article for analysis of other potential 2007 NBA Draft prospects like Tiago Splitter (Brazil), Marco Belinelli (Italy), Rudy Fernandez (Spain), Brad Newley (Australia)- although I'm sure our many Australian GSoM community members can tell you about Brad as well- and Uros Tripkovic (Serbia-Montenegro). If history has taught Warriors Nation anything (see The Dirty Dozen - Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3), it's never too early to start thinking NBA Draft.