The Washington Wizards have traded SG Quinton Ross to the New Jersey Nets for F-C Yi Jianlian and $3 million in cash. The deal moves the Nets to about $30 million under the salary cap because Ross has 1 year at about $1 million left on his contract, a player option he decided to pick up. The Wizards acquired Ross from the Dallas Mavericks at the trade deadline last year in the deal that moved Brendan Haywood, Deshawn Stevenson and Caron Butler to Dallas.Basically, the Wizards traded a guy they will never play [Ross] for a guy who will play some because the Wizards need height and scoring and rebounding and don't expect to win now so they can be patient with youth.
The deal helps the Nets get even further under the cap so they can afford two big-time free agents, assuming they can convince two of them to sign a contract to play in New Jersey for the next two years before the franchise relocates to Brooklyn. What does the deal do for the Wizards? Well, it doesn't cost them much -- just a player they won't ever use, especially now that they have Kirk Hinrich in the back court. Yi will earn $4.050.499 this coming season and his qualifying offer the year after that is $5,403,366. Thus, he need not be on the books any longer than Ross would have been, and he won't even cost the Wiz more in salary because the $3 million they get from the Nets makes up the difference between what Yi will earn and what Ross will earn.
[In case you needed further evidence that the Wizards don't plan to make a serious run at any big-name free agents this offseason, you have it. Again.]
As far as talent is concerned, Yi surely has more of it than Ross and will surely play more than Ross would have, barring a number of serious back court injuries. He has physical skills and he has size. He doesn't move laterally very well and has yet to prove he can get the separation he needs to improve his shooting. You shouldn't make any big demands of him defensively either. He's a soft, perimeter player, but he's 7 feet tall and those guys usually get multiple chances in the NBA. This is Yi's third chance.
Does the deal get the Wizards closer to being a contender in the Eastern Conference? Probably not. Unless Yi makes big strides this year he won't be worth many wins to the Wiz and there is a very good chance he won't receive the qualifying offer at the end of the 2010-11 season.
Yi is listed at 22 years old [turning 23 in October], but you probably shouldn't take that to the bank. Whatever his birth certificate reads, most observers reckon he's at least 25 years old.