Notes: It's never been if Yao Ming will be drafted by an NBA team, but rather in what draft he will be considered the overall No. 1 pick. Now, it's now up to NBA teams to weigh this Chinese import against the best America has to offer.
One of the most highly anticipated players ever to join the NBA, Yao has rapidly developed into the best and most dominant player in China. Performed in the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Australia and showed enormous potential. Follows fellow China National Team members Wang Zhizhi of the Dallas Mavericks and Mengke Bateer of the Denver Nuggets to the NBA. Scouting reports note Yaos agility and quickness for a player of his height. Possesses a soft shooting touch and has shooting range out to 15 feet. Has improved his free throw shooting to above 75 percent.
In the 2001-02 CBA (China Basketball Association) season, Yao led the league in blocked shots (4.8 bpg), and ranked second in scoring (32.4 ppg) and rebounding (19 rpg). Yao was even more dominant in the championship series, where he led the Sharks to a three-games-to-one victory over the Bayi Rockets, earning Shanghais first CBA championship. In that four-game series, he averaged 41.3 points, 21 rebounds and 4.3 blocks per game. In the clinching 123-122 victory, Yao recorded 44 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocked shots. For the playoffs, he averaged 38.9 points, 20.2 rebounds and 3.5 blocked shots in 44 minutes per game.
In the 2001 Asian Basketball Championship for Men, Yao helped the Chinese national team capture the title and an accompanying berth in the 2002 World Championship, slated for Indianapolis, Indiana late this summer. Yao averaged 13.4 points, 10.1 rebounds, and 2.76 block shots in 20 minutes per game.
Yao became the dominant player in the CBA as a 20-year-old during the 2000-2001 CBA season. Averaged 27.1 points, 19.4 rebounds and 5.5 blocked shots per game. In the first game of the CBA Finals against the Bayi Rockets and national team teammate Wang Zhizhi, Yao scored 32 points and grabbed 21 rebounds to spark Shanghai to a 116-105 victory. The win was especially significant because it marked the first-ever playoff game loss for the Rockets in the six years the CBA has been in existence. In the second game of the series, Yao scored 22 points and grabbed 24 rebounds, but Bayi won, 114-109.
In the 1999-2000 season, Yao enjoyed a breakthrough performance, as he became one of the best players in the league at age 19. Led CBA in rebounding (14.6 rpg), blocked shots (5.3 bpg) and dunks (55). He finished sixth in scoring (21.2 ppg) and tied for seventh in steals (2.4 spg). In the 1998-99 season, played just 12 games due to left leg fracture. Ranked second in the league in blocked shots (2.52 bpg) and averaged 20.9 points and 12.9 rebounds per game.
In the 2000 Olympic Games, led China in blocked shots (2.17 bpg), rebounds (6.0 rpg) and field goal percentage (63.9 percent) and was second in scoring (10.5 ppg). In the first game of competition against the USA Basketball Senior National Mens Team, was limited to 16 minutes by foul trouble, but tallied five points, three rebounds, two blocks and two assists in his brief time on the court. In an 82-70 loss to France, scored team-high 14 points and added six rebounds and three blocked shots in 26 minutes. In 82-66 loss to Lithuania, scored a game-high 23 points, grabbed a team-high seven rebounds and added two blocked shots.
Yaos parents are both former members of Chinas national basketball teams. His father is 6-7 and his mother is 6-3. Yao joined the Youth Sports School at age nine and received formal training in basketball for the first time. He was selected to be a member of the Shanghai Youth Team when he turned 14 years old, and was selected to Chinas National Team when he was 18.
Ming, 22, has committed to the draft after the Shanghai Sharks worked out a deal to let him come to America. The Chinese Basketball League is certainly not the NBA, nor will the competition he's facing each game measure up to NBA standards. But Ming is very agile and even at 7-foot-6, he can get out and run the floor like a small forward. In the halfcourt, he doesn't just plod around, either. He has a reliable jump hook, and has shown the ability to pass like a guard within the offense to cutting teammates. His basketball IQ isn't a question, neither is his talent. He also shot nearly 80 percent from the free throw line, which is a bonus for any big man.
Positives: Yao is 7-5 or 7-6 depending on who you believe. The inch, however, doesn't matter because he's tall and he's not a geek. He can score around the basket, almost a lock when he gets the ball within two feet. College players who went against him in Beijing said he can't be stopped when he gets the ball around the basket. He can block shots and is learning how to time his shot blocking better with each game. His ability to alter shots might be even more important.
Negatives: Yao may weight upwards of 290 pounds, but moving him out of the post could be easier for the stronger centers in the NBA. It might take him time to adjust to American basketball and the language barrier could become an issue for teammates and coaches.
Summary: The buzz is too high on Yao for him to drop out of the top two. A team will have to go through too much negotiating to ensure everything is right with Yao playing in the U.S., so don't look for any draft-and-trade deals. Instead, look for him to go within the top two and stay put.