Kelly Dwyer over at Ball Don’t Lie has put together a Top 10 list regarding the biggest draft busts of the past decade. The good news is, no one the Nets drafted made the cut unless you count the “entire 2000 draft” entry at #2 (though it doesn’t seem like Dwyer is lumping Nets #1 pick Kenyon Martin in that entry). The bad news is a player who is expected to play a key role in the upcoming Nets season made the cut – Yi Jianlian who was taken sixth overall by the Bucks in 2007 and was ranked #10 in Dwyer’s list.
Naturally, now that Yi is a Net, I’m going to get a bit defensive about his inclusion. While the list includes a number of players who have had adequate time to prove themselves as busts, including three top three picks in Adam Morrison (3rd pick, 2006), Darko Milicic (2nd pick, 2003) and Kwame Brown (1st pick, 2001), I find it difficult to believe that Yi should be considered a bust after two seasons in which he battled injuries throughout.
Dwyer writes of Yi:
He makes the fringe of this list merely because he's still in the league, but after two full seasons in Milwaukee and New Jersey, it's pretty clear what Yi is all about. And it ain't unrealized potential.
Again, it’s been two seasons. The guy was averaging 10 and 6 and shooting about 39% from behind the arc before injuring his pinky finger last season. No, those are not “the next Dirk” numbers, but they’re hardly bust-worthy. The end of the season was a disappointment for sure, and I would have been fine if Thorn was able to move Yi in the off-season for something worthwhile, but I think the phrase “bust” is used a little too loosely here.
Fortunately, as we’ve discussed here at NAS, Yi has bulked up and looked halfway decent in the FIBA Asia Championship this summer, so let’s see if Dwyer needs to revise the list next season.