I’ll admit it: these rankings might help you readers just as much as they help me as a fan an sort-of-an-analyst. Really helps me keep track of how momentums shift from team to team. Last week I talked about a growing rift between top and bottom teams, and while this rift keeps growing when it comes to top-6 and bottom-6 squads (and, noticeably, between Liaoning and
the rest of the league) it’s not necessarily the case for middle-of-the-pack sides.
Let’s see how the best teams are faring in this part 1, week 5 edition of our very own Power Rankings.
1 – Liaoning, 16-0 (0)
It’s growing larger and larger, and now it needs attention: there’s a gap between Liaoning and all other competitors, one that keeps inflating as Liaoning continues not to miss a beat. While Hudson has been great as usual especially vs Guangsha and Jilin, all three games brought to light the greatest strength of the Dinosaurs (well, that’s the name for this year, apparently): while every team relies on imports and they make no exception, their way of depending is an active one. One thing is to just let the foreigners play and stand around, another is to let your import be the tip of the iceberg while still contributing. Li Xiaoxu this week has finally resembled his old self, never going below 9 boards, Han Dejun has reclaimed his role as a go-to guy in the 4th and his aggressiveness is visible not only on the court, but in the stat sheet as well: his 5 attempts at the line vs Jilin have put an end to a 6-game streak of at least 8 FT attempts per game. Vs Beijing, where 6 Liaoning guys have cracked the 10-point mark and their best scorer was Yang Ming with 21, Hudson and Thompson have attempted 5 FT, while the locals have amassed 30. Talk about stepping up.
2 – Guangdong, 13-3 (+2)
The perennial champs have already found a replacement for Mudiay in Will Bynum, and are steadily drawing nearer. Solid play from Yi and Zhu is paying off in the long run as this team’s consistency just can’t be easily matched, especially when the calendar finally eases up for them. Nobody is more consistent playing against weaker sides and that will pay off in their run for a high seed. Of course, will it be enough in crunch time, when weaker teams are already enjoying their holidays and the Southern Tigers will face some of the sides that got the best of them up to now?
3 – Guangsha, 13-3 (-1)
With Gibson’s injury leaving him out for the season Guangsha probably got overlooked by most (me included, I can’t lie), and yet this season further affirms their level. Actually, it shouldn’t be surprising: Franklin is definitely a good player, Holman is a presence on the boards and the locals aren’t stellar, but solid players. In fact, some of them might get their names in All-Star conversation; not surprisingly so for Lin Chih-Chieh, we already know he’s good, but Wang Zheng is building a solid season and his 58 points in the last 3 games on 64% shooting is another cornerstone. He might very well get the call to wear a South Team jersey.
4 – Beijing, 12-4 (-1)
Should’ve won at least one of the two matches vs Xinjiang and Liaoning, but they can still take solace in Marbury’s play. Hopefully it finally is clear: he really plays just the key games. Unfortunately, the key games are also the ones in which Beijing has also shown alarmingly low rebounding rates. Will they cover the boards in key playoff games?
5 – Qingdao, 11-5 (+1)
One would suspect a team that features Haddadi would be a defensive stalwart – not because of his sheer length, either: he played for years in Memphis, one of the premier half-court defenses in the NBA – and maybe not much of a flamethrower on offense, but the opposite is true for Qingdao: a cream-of-the-crop offense where Harris just is a mismatch and Dentmon has proved unguardable thanks to his range, this team is lately on a tear, literally beating on weaker teams with offensive wizardry and a lot of points. Haddadi has proved himself to be a great rebounder and an even better facilitator (to be honest, he was already known as a capable and willing passer in the NBA) with 4,5 apg. If they manage to open up their rotations a bit and find even more help (locals have been efficient but not spectacular) this might be a top-4 team. Have I just said that about Qingdao?
Yes, I have.
6 – Xinjiang, 11-5 (-1)
Something’s off. This should be the best team in the league, quite frankly, and it shouldn’it be even close. Adding Liu Wei and Zhou Qi to an already proven local core moves them right at the top, in theory, and Blatche is a player no other team has. He’s an instant-MVP favorite who hasn’t let down even the most unrealistic expectations, Zhou Qi has literally forced his way into instant relevancy (and top Chinese NBA prospect, methinks). But Crawford left, and he would have been a force to reckon with. Telfair is good and has every reason to a) stay in China long-term b) strive for a title shot. Of course, having a statue of his cousin in the capital city is a pretty intriguing prospect and a perfect résumé at once. Telfair could be a great add for Xinjiang, and it’s not like he has anything to do with Crawford’s adieu. Now the team has to find its balance, though, and it’d be ideal not to make further moves. Keep what you have, let the team jell together and see what’s in store for you.
That said, this team will eventually find his defense back, and meanwhile Zhou Qi is starting to establish himself as more than just a wonder kid: his percentages keep being high (although not as skyscraping as his first couple of games suggested, but it was flat out unrealistic to expect so) and his rebounds are piling up at a steadily improving rate. Don’t forget that this team is still missing Tang Zhengdong (he played just a couple sparse matches) and that Su Wei is playing 11 minutes per game. As I’d kept saying for Marbury, don’t panic.
7 – Shanxi, 10-6 (+3)
Asian imports’ caliber is steadily growing, and Abbas isn’t the lone exception any longer. Yet again, a team of his finds itself in a playoff spot once again, at least temporarily, so bow down to the 31-year old Jordanian. If Duang Jiangpeng gets back to a larger role (closer to 2013 and 2014) this team has a legitimate 4-men unit that will get most things done against a large chunk of teams. Who’s the fifth, though? Ge Zhaobao is having a bad season, Yang Pengfei has had a 27-point game but is more of a stretch player than a legit center. Luo Zhi, a guard, would force either Tyler or Abbas to play the 5 spot and hasn’t played well enough to make it look like a solution. Zhang Xuewen has virtually no long range for a 3/4 and would still force a no-5 lineup. Every other player around just hasn’t the quality to be a starter. Shanxi must solve this problem to stay in contention, but its lack of depth will be fatal in the postseason anyway.
Unless, you know, big Zaid elects otherwise.
8 – Dongguan, 9-7 (-1)
It’s a litany, at this point. Consistency is key. You can’t lose to Shanghai, even if you shoot terribly from deep (Gu Quan 4-16, Brown 4-14). But most of all Gu Quan needs to keep shooting. I don’t care about the results, you can’t control them to the fullest. Keep shooting. Instead, vs Guangdong he took 4 total shots. NO, Gu, NO. You’re an all-star, you’re the future of Chinese Basketball at your position along with Ding Yanyuhang, but you’re even a better shooter than him. Could you be an NBA player one day? I don’t think so, but your stroke is good enough to make it, hell, not completely impossible. Keep shooting, you’ll learn how to deal with slumps.
Back to the team, Brown and Diogu are now a bit closer in terms of minutes played and impact, which is good, but the three-pointers have to fall down at a better rate, Dongguan’s last among top teams in 3pt%.
9 – Jilin, 9-7 (-1)
Another 3-import team, another uber-short rotation, but maybe Jilin could just open them up: Ang Lee is now injured, but has deserved more than 21 minutes per contest, and Zhang Biao is a double-digit threat when given adequate minutes. They could get more minutes, other guys might get more minutes. Jilin is a tough team, not just Dominique Jones’ dominion. A 1-point win vs Xinjiang, a 2-point loss vs Liaoning should be regarded as playoff material, and not only Jones, but Madanly has been deserving a playoff run so far. Don’t sleep on this team.
10 – Foshan, 8-8 (+1)
By far the best three-point shooting team in the league, Josh Akognon has been a scoring machine at a very low turnover rate (not that he passes this much, but 1,7 per game is still a great rate for your best player), Khatib has proven doubters wrong showing he is a hot hand and a force at the Asian import slot and Kravtsov, although not as scintillating, is providing rim protection with 2,1 bpg. Defense isn’t there, though: top 3 in ppg conceded as a team. At least they’ll get some consolation: Zeng Lingxu is bound to get an All-Star call.
See you for part 2, take care!