In the lead up to the draft a number of website’s published commentary on Jet’s strengths and weaknesses. It was obvious in all of these cases that the authors had seen very little of his play. Mid-Major Madness did a pretty good job, but once again it was clear that they were going off Jet’s numbers alone. I have watched Jet play at least 30 times over the past three years, so hope that my thoughts can help sort some things out.
So my hope for this brief article is that I can give Timberwolves fans, and NBA fans in general, a little more insight into Jet Chang the player and his basketball experience up to this point. The first and most important thing that people need to know about Jet is that he does possess an NBA quality talent. Before the draft each year you hear people like Chad Ford, Jay Bilas, and Bill Simmons discuss the fact that players with one great talent have a better chance at sticking in the league than players who are merely good at a number of things. Jet Chang can score the basketball. He has shown on the collegiate level, on the international level, and at the Portsmouth Invitational that he can put the ball in the basket.
The second thing that people need to know is that Jet had a very rough senior year. For starters Jet participated in the William Jones Cup in Taiwan in July and in the Asian Games in China during the month of September. He did not even return to campus until early October. When other players were in off-season mode Jet was playing nine games in ten days against the best teams in Asia, and leading the Taiwanese team in scoring. When the season began it was clear that the Seasiders had not jelled as a team and struggled to find any consistency in non-conference play. It did not help that they played two NCAA-bound DI schools (Long Beach and BYU), and eventual NCAA DII Champ Western Washington during this time. Every team keyed their defense on Jet, knowing that he was the focal point of the Seasiders offense. By the time conference play rolled around Jet was playing much better and saw his numbers increase across the board despite missing three games and being slowed in two other games due to injury. If not for the injuries it is very likely that Jet and the Seasiders would have been able to sneak into the NCAA tournament despite the atrocious start to the season.
The third thing people need to know is that Jet Chang is not Jeremy Lin. This needs to be said as too often people are using the Taiwan connection as the source of the player comparison. In my mind the best comparison for Jet is Flip Murray. Murray came from a small college and took a few years to find a place in the NBA. Ultimately Murray succeeded because he could score in bunches. They are both streaky shooters who also get lots of easy baskets because they can beat other players down the court. Jet is not a point guard, he is a scorer.
I think the last thing that people need to know is that injury withstanding Jet is going to be a successful professional basketball player. While his dream is obviously the NBA, CBA teams in China and SBL teams in Taiwan would die to have him on their squad. Jet has a loyal following already in Taiwan and is a constant point of discussion on Chinese basketball chat sites. He is going to make a lot of money playing ball, but he first wants to see if he can find a place in the league.
While Jet will suit up for the Timberwolves, it is highly unlikely that he will get a contract from them before the beginning of the season. The Wolves already have 13 players under contract from last year, drafted Robbie Hummel in the 2nd round, and have agreed to sign Brandon Roy. The key for Jet is to make his minutes count in Vegas so that another team will be willing to offer him a longer look in training camp. I guess in this way Jet is a lot like Jeremy Lin.