View Full Version : Minutes a part of Yi deal?

09-09-2007, 02:24 PM
Minutes a part of Yi deal?
by Bob Wolfley

According to a report, Milwaukee Bucks owner Herb Kohl, during negotiations with Yi Jianlian, guaranteed that the rookie Chinese power forward will get at least 20 and "possibly" as much as 25 minutes a game his rookie season.

ESPN.com reported that Kohl had to make "personal guarantees" of average playing time in order get Yi, who was drafted No. 6 overall, signed to a contract with the Bucks.

But if you look at the average number of minutes other No. 6 draft choices have played in their rookie seasons in recent years, you see that they routinely got more minutes than even the maximum Kohl is said to have pledged.

In other words, if Kohl promised Yi playing time, he was promising something Yi likely would get even if there was no promise.

ESPN.com identified the source for the Kohl guarantee as someone "intimately familiar with the negotiations."

If the report is literally the truth - if it was something given to Yi beyond assurances - that's bad precedent.

Minutes are earned, not guaranteed in pro basketball. Minutes are the main reason players have to pay attention to coaches. A guarantee by an owner would compromise the integrity of the coach.

And try explaining to a veteran player why, if a rookie can ask for and get a guarantee of minutes, anyone else on the roster can't ask for the same thing.

But the issue of a guarantee is a moot one given what players taken in Yi's slot have averaged in playing time.

Over the last 15 seasons, No. 6 draft choices have averaged 28.2 minutes, three minutes over the maximum Kohl allegedly guaranteed.

Of those 15 players, only three averaged less than 20 minutes, 11 averaged more than 25 minutes and six of them averaged over 30 minutes.

The three players who failed to average at least 20 minutes were guard/forward Martell Webster of Portland in 2005-'06 (17.5 minutes), guard/forward DerMarr Johnson of Atlanta in 2000-'01 (16.8) and Robert "Tractor" Traylor of Milwaukee in 1998-'99 (16.0).

The Bucks are not an elite NBA team like Detroit. They don't have a starting power forward like Rasheed Wallace. They are a middling team with a need at power forward.

If Yi turns into even a little bit of a player, the alleged guarantee issue disappears. If he turns out to be Darko Milicic or Tractor Traylorbut still gets big minutes, then the issue will return.