Let’s now focus on the bottom half of the league. Which teams are already doomed to irrelevancy, which teams will eventually rise back up for a playoff fight?
P.s. I don’t like to anticipate, but it must be noted that the three newcomers (Sichuan still counts as one) are at the bottom. Will the CBA find an answer to this or is it just a problem that will solve itself?
11 – Shandong, 8-8 (-1)
Good luck trying to figure out this team. A 3-losses (one of them vs Chongqing. Seriously?!) weak pushes them out of the playoff picture, for now, but don’t count them out. A team with huge ups and downs that managed to get to the Finals just two years ago is now struggling to rise above mediocrity. A living testimony of how higher CBA’s level has gotten in just 24 months, Shandong is recently struggling from deep and looks to be in a slump that is probably the only reason this team isn’t higher. Raduljica is slowly getting used to the Chinese game (I probably picked on his game a bit too early), but still has off games. Besides that there’s no real reason this team shouldn’t come out of this struggles with a winning record at the very least: not many teams have an import guard who shoots >40% from deep consistently and two great local off-guards in Li Jingyu and Ding Yanyuhang. Add in Raduljica and Tao Hanlin and you have a good starting lineup. Too bad Sui Ran is seriously injured, but this team can still make it.
12 – Shanghai, 7-9 (+1)
The Sharks are definitely showing interesting improvements and are now 7-3 since West’s departure. Really interesting to see how their two big men from the NBA have jelled together in a team that’s like no other and that is starting to morph that unique structure into an identity to take pride in. Rebounds, post-ups, slow tempo and interior strength are the name of the game for the “new” Sharks, who are looking way more convincing and focused.
13 – Jiangsu, 7-9 (+1)
Hu Xuefeng had to reenter the starting lineup because this team was going a bit astray as Douglas is a very good import but 2,5 apg for a nominal PG aren’t really going to help. Slowly coming up, this team has a pretty good starting lineup actually, with Hu, Yi Li and Chang Lin alongside TD and Singleton. But little defense and a bottom-2 in the league 45,5 FG% as a team has put them in a bad, but still not desperate position.
14 – Tianjin, 6-10 (-2)
Dead last in 3pt% and with at least two guys who will be the premier names in my “stop shooting NOW!” list whenever I actually am going to write one down (Meng Xiaolong 25% on 3,8 threes per game, Zhang Zhihan 30% on 3,6), which might be very soon, they have no consistency, no efficiency and a roster that in theory is bound to produce the exact opposite. But off-years happen, and Tianjin has hit one.
15 – Zhejiang, 5-11 (+1)
A rare 2-wins week, this team needs to slow down its tempo and find some damn defense, because not even a high tempo can justify 124,2 ppg given, especially without having a 50% offense. Nonetheless, they’ve managed to carve out two wins with a sensational McCollum. It’s all about him, though: if he’s under the weather this team might as well forfeit the game altogether. Vs Tongxi it took a 50-16-7 performance from their star guard to win.
16 – Fujian, 4-12 (+2)
Finally stopped the bleeding and got two good wins vs Sichuan and Chongqing. D.J. White has made his debut with Fujian, but it remains to be seen who will grab rebounds besides Wang, without considering out-of-the-blue performances from guys like Chen Linjian (14 boards vs Sichuan). Lucas at least provides offense (both scoring and passing), White will presumably be a good partner for Wang, but this season might just be over already. Maybe it’s time to get some youngsters on the floor, but I’m not even sure they have youngsters.
17 – Bayi, 3-13 (0)
Once again, Bayi has no imports (it’s the Army’s team), but maybe a few hopes. Zou Yuchen is an interesting prospect, Arslan is a promising guard and maybe in a couple years this team will have a few gems. But, yet again, no imports means no wins, especially as their level keeps going up (could you imagine guys like Beasley and Blatche wearing CBA jerseys just a few years ago?).
18 – Chongqing, 3-13 (+2)
Somehow won vs Shandong, but this team will have a rough ride. Good to see they got a gem in Willie Warren, who might easily turn himself into a CBA star in the making, but Harrellson and Kazemi have been below-average scorers (the ex-Oregon is a great rebounder, though) and only Yao Peng amongst the locals is in double-digits (10,1, but on 40% from 3). Not a problem, though: they’re lackluster on defense and it wouldn’t matter much (116,6 ppg conceded). As with every newcomer, it takes a while to find the talent.
19 – Sichuan, 3-13 (-4)
Free fall. World Peace has found out he’s not an iso-scorer, even at the CBA level, nor a rebounder – again, even at the CBA level – and Efevberha hasn’t been supported by any local besides maybe Chen Xiaodong, who deserves a better team than this. Third-worst defense in the league with 114,5 ppg, worst team in FG% with 45,2. Ouch.
20 – Tongxi, 2-14 (-1)
I really wonder how newcomer teams will ever rise up without a draft. Foreigners aren’t enough, as Tongxi shows (they’ve all been good, although Costner might be more efficient) if there’s no talent among your Chinese guys. Yet, theoretically speaking all good local players are already taken, so what can you do? Establish a – let’s use a football term – cantera, or any kind of young players development structure isn’t something you can do overnight. Anyway, Tongxi lacks talent for now, but there’s some attitude going on, there’s a fanbase (it’s Nanjing, after all), there’s room for improvement. They just have to sort out how.
See you on Wednesday for our weekly “Se son rose…”, take care!