You Can’t Blame Yi for Everything

I certainly understand why a lot of Nets fans are down on Yi Jianlian, and I’ve certainly taken my fair share of shots at him this season, but I also think people need to be fair and realistic about how much Yi’s individual performances actually affect the team overall. When Yi left Sunday’s game against the Knicks with an ankle injury, there were a few comments about how much better the Nets played once Yi left – never mind the fact that in the first quarter, EVERYONE on the Nets was stinking up the joint, regardless of who was on the floor.

Here are the facts: looking at the simple rating for each player on the Nets roster – which is a statistic found at that takes into account the team’s offensive and defensive performance when a specific players is on and off the court – you can determine that Yi does have a negative impact on the team when he plays. However, there are many other players on the roster, who currently get significant minutes, that have a more detrimental effect on the team than Yi.

According to 82games, Yi has played 40 percent of the team’s minutes this season. Yi is putting up a Player Efficiency Rating of 13.8 in those minutes, while opposing players matched up against Yi have a PER of 22.5, good for a differential of -8.7. Meanwhile, when Yi plays, the team’s +/- is -7, and when he’s off the floor, their +/- is -13.4, good for a differential of +6.4. When you add these two differentials together, you get Yi’s simple rating of -2.7.

Yi’s simple rating is sixth best on the Nets roster, which is more of a statement of how bad the Nets are (shocking).  Only two players have a positive simple rating, Brook Lopez and Keyon Dooling.  The other players ahead of Yi include Courtney Lee, and two players who have a relatively small sample size, Bobby Simmons and Sean Williams.

So that puts Devin Harris (-2.8), Kris Humphries (-3.5), Terrence Williams (-3.7) and Chris Douglas-Roberts (-3.8) all behind Yi in terms of simple rating, meaning the team is overall playing worse when those players are on the court when compared to the team’s performance when Yi is on the floor. Of those four players, I think the one that is most worth picking out for the sake of this post is Humphries. While I’ve been relatively impressed with Hump’s aggressiveness and attitude since he came over from Dallas (and thankful to have him over Najera), these numbers demonstrate that he’s not necessarily a better full-time option at the four than Yi.  Just based on some observations, I think Humphries has many of the same issues as Yi – occasionally soft on defense, a penchant for bad shots and inappropriate times – so the section of the fan-base that believes Hump MUST start instead of Yi may want to look at the numbers to determine if it really makes a difference for the Nets.

Nets fans need to go a little easier on Yi. Don’t get me wrong, I still believe the Nets absolutely must upgrade at PF next season and that the Yi as a starter experiment should come to the end.  But the Nets aren’t bad solely because of Yi, or even primarily because of Yi. The Nets are bad because they are a bad team, and the 7-wins they’ve accumulate is proof enough that their issues run beyond one player.

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