I was tempted to begin this piece with a statement: from now on, every part 2 of my rankings will be named “How the other half lives”, quoting Jacob Riis’ famous work on portraying the poorest slums in New York. Then, you know, I decided to give up on that out of the respect I have for that book and let’s just say that the CBA is now undoubtedly about halves, and that we can state that every second half of my rankings will undoubtedly concern the less fashionable half of the league. Underachievers, absolute beginners (can I quote Bowie, at the very least?), average joes and uncategorized displays of hopelessness all inhabit the gutter of Chinese basketball.
Who, though, is looking at the stars among those teams?
11 – Foshan (+1)
Loss to Tongxi and win against Shandong aside, this team has been exactly average: wins vs bottom teams, losses vs top teams. An all-out perimeter team who excels behind the rainbow and lacks inside punch, Foshan has a quite short rotation and relies on three foreigners. Akognon is a massive and accurate shooter who doesn’t distribute too much and hasn’t got the body to contribute elsewhere at a high rate. Kravtsov is a good defender and passable interior scorer who probably isn’t at his best playing as a CBA import, given the expectations that come with it: there are worse rebounders than him among the number of big men that have played this role, but they all either compensated by excelling elsewhere or just didn’t stay too long. Kravtsov does average 10,6 rpg and 17,7 ppg, but with Akognon and Khatib usually looking for jumpers and rarely crash the boards (rebounding numbers as a guard import and asian import are key, just look at guys like Hudson, Abbas or even Kazemi) his effort gets overmatched by better teams where everybody contributes – even locals, who generally are poor rebounders.
12 – Tianjin (-1)
Shang Ping has certainly grown up as a player while in Europe, and now is posting decent numbers (11 and 7) after missing a chunk of games, but from a team that made the playoffs and could give us a starting lineup with Douby, Zhang Zhihan, Zhang Nan, Shang Ping and Shelden Williams you’d expect much more than average play and losses to Shanghai and Foshan. It hasn’t worked out, though, for them, and being the worst three-point shooting team in the league despite having the two Zhangs and Quincy is a good indication that this is going to be a down season.
13 – Shanghai (+2)
Since Yao Ming said adieu to Delonte West Shanghai has turned it around. Their record from that Jilin game is 5-2. Now, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll get to the playoff race, but of all the bottom teams they’re the only one with some kind of momentum behind them. Beasley has ultimately been joined by Bernard James, another big man – or, possibly, an actual big man despite Beasley getting a more-than-respectable amount of boards for a tweener. James himself has been excellent especially in his fourth match vs Fujian where he was the only import, posting a resounding 28-23 stat line. Of course, this couldn’t have been possible without locals turning the page: Zhang has been more involved in every aspect of the game and is having a good season, Tseng Wenting has finally played up to his standards and even reserves like Fang Chenglin are heating up (he had 23 vs Fujian).
14 – Jiangsu (-1)
Another surprisingly below-average team, considering the lineup (after all Chris Singleton is having a great season: 22,1 ppg, 13 rpg, 2,6 apg, 3,2 spg and 1,9 bpg) and the talent. But they just haven’t played like a cohesive unit, and it shows in the boxscore: bottom 4 in FG%. They aren’t the most athletic team around, either, and their games are low-scoring, down-tempo affairs compared to the rest of the league. The point is that it hasn’t helped them get good results.
15 – Sichuan (+1)
Metta’s first on-court quasi-brawl (nothing serious happened, in the end) wasn’t enough to fire up his teammates, and they’re now on a 4-game losing streak. MWP himself is playing well below his usual level with 19,8 ppg and 6,2 rpg, while Efevberha has shot below 30% from deep. Given the lack of local talent and the non-existent effort on defense, it could have panned out worse.
16 – Zhejiang (-2)
Free falling Zhejiang is just not ready for the level of competition this league now provides. Gaines is injured, Johnson has been a good replacement and McCollum is carrying a young and helpless team that would probably be dead last without solid foreigners. Still, it’s gonna take much more than that to win games, and beside playing at a reckless pace they haven’t done much, especially on the defensive end (although, of course, being the team who gives up the most points on a nightly basis depends on the high rhythm: they’re also second in ppg made).
17 – Bayi (0)
No imports, little talent (and they have Zou Yuchen), no rebounds, no points. Next question?
18 – Fujian (0)
Disastrous season that is taking a major toll on Wang Zhelin, who just looks frustrated and uninterested. Surprisingly enough they are horrible three point shooters (just above Tianjin) and they have Zhao Tailong, who is shooting 48% from distance and might make the All-Star starting lineups (at least he has the votes for now). Two imports already checked in for Harrington and Fisher, and there’s just no serenity or momentum in here. Then you add a 7-games losing streak and a bad defense and it’s just over.
(p.s. it’s not like I have something against Zhao, who is good, but just imagine if right now they told you that if the voting process stopped now Jeremy Lin would be the starting PG out West.)
19 – Tongxi (+1)
They get the nod over Chongqing because of that win vs Dongguan, but they had to play with 7 guys: their rotation is so small because they simply don’t have enough players, counting only those who can actually hold their own on a CBA court. Right, all of this is to be expected, they’ll have to wait until they either grow some talent or buy some out-of-rotations players hoping they get lucky, imports alone don’t get you anywhere even if they’re good as Costner and McDonald have been so far (Kamrani has played well, too) and when Costner has 9,8 rpg, McDonald 10,8 and you’re still last in rpg as a team, well, it’s hard to compete.
20 – Chongqing (-1)
I had a glimmer of hope when Kazemi finally solved his VISA problems, but it was much ado about nothing. I’m actually surprised they already won two games. Warren is having a huge season, actually, but Kazemi has missed many games and Harrellson’s numbers would look pretty good, if he wasn’t an import (he’d be seventh in rpg with 8,2 if he was a local player. He’d be behind Zou Yuchen, Wang Zhelin, Li Xiaoxu, Yi Jianlian and Max Zhang.), but overall he barely cracks the top 30 in boards and wouldn’t be top 10 in ppg even amongst Chinese players (he’d be thirteen, just behind Zhao Tailong who isn’t even the third option of his team because there’s Wang) and is 56th overall.
I usually despise the use of emoticons in a serious (ehm…) article, but Chongqing is best described by a giant “:(“.
That’s all, for now. I’ll see you again in a couple of days, take care!