Rumor: Warriors are Yi "Approved"

Well it looks like the fat lady hasn't sung yet. Just the other day I wondered out loud whether The Yi Movement was over, but it looks like instead of being over it may actually be picking up more steam. ESPN.com's Chad Ford has been hanging out at the NBA's predraft camp in Orlando and conversing with NBA execs and agents. Here's what he dropped on The Movement in his blog post today titled Rumors from Orlando:

The Yi Jianlian games have begun. Yi is foregoing the physical-only portion of the camp -- the first time I remember seeing that move by a player.

Yi is not injured and he's not in China. He's pulling out to maintain control of the process.

Both his agent, Dan Fegan, and the Chinese government want to make sure Yi lands on the "right" team. So Yi will work out for only a few select teams.

Yi's Orlando maneuver means that the other teams in the league won't even have the results of a physical to look at, which might further discourage them from draft Yi.

Don't be shocked if Golden State or Chicago finds a way to move up and grab Yi. They seem to be the two "approved" teams most interested.

yijianlian02.jpg
This rejection was "approved" by Yi.

You have to wonder how long the list of "approved" teams for Yi are. Lottery teams like the Grizzlies, Bucks, Timberwolves, Bobcats, and Hornets probably aren't on the list because of their diminutive market status. The Celtics play in a good sized market and are a legendary NBA franchise, but their current tank-job front office is one of the worst in NBA history and they've shown no signs of vacating the NBA's cellar. After eliminating those lottery teams, here's who might be on that "approved" list for Yi:

  1. Golden State Warriors: Ford noted the Warriors are on the list, but let's recap the obvious positives: large market, up and coming team, best fans in the NBA, and the Bay is a cultural hot spot with a tremendous Asian population. Nellieball looks optimal for Yi as well. And of course that movement thing...

  2. Chicago Bulls: Again, Ford said they're Yi "approved", but there's some big plusses worth noting. The Bulls could easily win the Leastern Conference with a few good moves. Chi-town is a large market and thanks to MJ the Bulls are one of the most popular and recognizable NBA teams around the world.

  3. New York Knicks: New York is the biggest stage in the world. The Knickerbockers missed out on the playoffs this season for the second straight year in a row, but in the Leastern Conference it really isn't that difficult to move up in the standings. They have a decent young core that Yi could only add to.

  4. LA Lakers: Assuming this Kobe drama doesn't explode and further embarrass this once proud franchise even further, the Lake-show is popular all over the world and are a global brand. They're an easy sell to free agents and draftees.

  5. LA Clippers: The Clipped were the most underachieving team in the league this year, but assuming they can fix their point guard woes, they really aren't that far away from being a threat in the loaded Western Conference. And it's still La-La land.

  6. Sacramento Kings: Sacrapmento's a small market, but it's still in Cali. Major changes are probably in store for them this offseason, but don't count out the Maloof's to pull off some big gamble.

It'll be extremely interesting to see whether the Warriors actually have Yi in for a workout before the June 28th NBA Draft. Yi and his crew definitely seem interested in coming to the Bay and rightfully so, but are Mullin, Nellie, and the Warrior management feeling Yi enough to make a big leap in the NBA Draft picking order to grab him? Do they even have the goods that would interest other teams in the lottery?

Let's say the Warriors did make a big jump and drafted Yi. The best case scenario is that Yi blows up big time and fits with Andris Biedrins like Voltron to form the Dub's unique 4-5 combo for the next decade plus. The worst case scenario for the Warriors is that Yi's a complete and utter bust, but puts the franchise on the map globally for a short period and is good for a huge increase in merchandise sales. One thing's for sure though, just like with Yao who took some time to adjust and blow up to first round knockout level (man, I still can't get over how Yao and TMac lost that series to the Utah Jazz), it's going to take a few years to assess Yi as an NBA player. Playing on one of the "approved" teams will make a big difference in whether his NBA run is a success or a failure.

Regardless of whether you think Yi will blow up or be a bust, will the Warriors end up drafting Yi on June 28th? Give us your prediction in the comments section.


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