“Six characters in search for an author” could make a fitting alternative title for this (it being an Italian play makes it all the more intriguing for me. Patriottism, y’know); besides that, I’ll get that out there at the start: I missed a couple predictions on some of these guys, and you’ll soon see how and why.
Let’s get started with no further ado:
1 – Almost Dorado: how and why MWP, Raduljica and Harrellson failed.
As soon as news broke out about each of the three’s replacement most fans formulated the same statement, mentally: World Peace is over, Raduljica isn’t suited for more than Europe, Harrellson isn’t good enough. As a CBA fan/sorta analyst, it might all be true. Or false. Whatever, really, the reality is for these young (or kind of young) men, no CBA season is going to testify. As tempting as it is to use the word “failure” for players who haven’t played up to their supposed standards, a player not executing is never just his fault. I’m of course a fan myself, but I wouldn’t be worth the words you’re reading if I just let shallow judgements make up my analysis, would I?
Your production in a system that’s part of a competition is clearly influenced by you, the system you’re in and the competition you’re playing in. Those three criteria are something to keep in mind: there’s a fat chance that everyone has impacted the three pros in different quantities and ways.
– Metta World Peace, Sichuan, 19 ppg, 6 rpg, 2,3 spg. Causes of failure: misconception about his contributions to a CBA team, bad team choice.
Why has MWP been replaced? It’s simple: Neither he or the team had the slightest idea of what they should have been expecting. Metta really shouldn’t have accepted Sichuan’s offer right from the start nor Sichuan should have gone for him. Sichuan is an understandably bad team with little local talent and no defense that expected MWP to be their savior. Metta, on the other hand, is a defensive stalwart and a decent shot maker. Maker, not creator. World Peace was never going to get 30 in a system whose playbook is “give him the ball and let him ice”, he’s not that kid of player. Conversely, his defense is never gonna make an impact if nobody else cares on that end of the floor; opposing teams will just keep away from him – and they can, since he’s not a rim protector. World Peace could have been a marvelous player in a team that needed what he does best: defending and throwing his weight around. And there’s a bunch of them, although most teams would have required him to crash the boards as well (6 per game is not gonna cut it as an import). Alternatively, he could have been a great addition for a team with already a dominant big man and some local guards to take matters in their own hands (Xinjiang, anyone?). He had his choices, no lie: don’t throw in the unstableness in a league that threw money Ivan Johnson’s way; the CBA thrives on trusting players when no one else does.
– Josh Harrellson, Chongqing, 13,9 ppg, 8,4 rpg. Causes of failure: misconception about CBA being suitable for every NBA-caliber player.
Let’s face it: the calling card of the CBA is as a stat-sheet stuffing league to get visible enough for an NBA comeback. But Harrellson was never going to thrive in the CBA: he’s much more of a team player, a floor-spacer and a 4th/5th option on a team, and thus he’ll play much better in a team where there are better players around him. One would imagine he could have tried either Europe (where players like that, especially with his shooting touch, are always appreciated) or the good ol’ D-League. China wants either dominating big men or scintillating bucket-makers, and Harrellson isn’t. I’m not going to complain about his rebounding numbers: they don’t look good, but he was paired with Kazemi, so he was not gonna get 15 rpg anyway. Yet, his shot was off, and because usually teams get much more shot-creating imports at both spots he was ultimately not meant to be. Still love you, Jorts.
– Miroslav Raduljica, Shandong, 18,3 ppg, 9,1 rpg. Causes of failure: not especially great at anything, Shandong didn’t need that kind of player.
Failures definitely don’t look like a 18-9 average stat. Don’t miss out on Raduljica, he probably still is an NBA-worthy center. I don’t think that Shandong needed that kind of player, though: the Serbian plays an old-fashioned post-up game to create buckets, and his midrange abilities would play a bigger role if he was a role player. In China, though, imports are asked to be great, not good, and Raduljica wasn’t great at anything. He wasn’t the best, fiercest or most reliable post threat; he wasn’t the best or the most intimidating rebounder; he wasn’t the most fearsome rim protector and defender. Yet, once that is clear, Shandong ultimately replaced him with Earl Clark, a tweener at the 4 spot and a completely different player, so it’s not just Raduljica. It’s Shandong that needed that kind of quick moving threat, and not a pace-slowing center.
2 – Half tweener, half amazing: how and why Beasley, Tyler and Blatche are killing the league.
You NBA fans have heard it for a long while, now: the tweener problem. Is Beasley a SF or a PF? Is Tyler a real PF? Is Blatche a 4 or a 5? Well, the Chinese answer to those dilemmas is “who cares?!”.
Because here nobody will ever grimace at Beasley finding it hard to bump in the post trying to contain a big guy or having a 3 get past him. The dismal state of CBA defenses makes their own lapses look absolutely par for the course, while their good offense looks even greater when nobody comes even close to guarding them. But let’s take it one man at a time.
1 – Jeremy Tyler, Shanxi, 25,4 ppg, 11,9 rpg.
When tweeners leave the NBA for a Chinese squad I get pretty excited: we’re finally going to see his true nature. Tyler has definitely stated he’s a 4-5 kind of guy who will play center in most leagues. In fact, we shouldn’t fully trust the notion that every import gets to shoot whenever and however he wants; oftentimes, though, it is true at least to a point where we will see some signs of his self-perception. A guy like Haddadi, for example, will not mind taking some jump shots even from distance; that doesn’t mean, however, that he shoots 6 threes per night; they’re all pros, with varying degrees of self-discipline. But really most of your discipline as a CBA import has to be self-imposed, and it’s intriguing to see what level they’ve truly reached. Tyler has been pretty impressive in that regard for such a young man, really putting his bulk and mobility to good use by not settling for long looks and focusing on grabbing boards at a high rate. He looks very promising if you add in the fact that his defense wasn’t considered too far behind the NBA average.
2 – Michael Beasley, Shanghai, 28,8 ppg, 10,7 rpg, 4 apg.
After an uneven start for the whole team where he’d shoot at a low rate, he had some games where he cut down on threes a bit and found his rhythm back. But, most of all, the team changed its complexion by replacing West, playing a chunk of games with B-Easy as a lone import and then, seeing how better the team played with no guard imports, picked up former Maverick big man Bernard James. Now Beasley is totally comfortable with his tweener style of play and hasn’t – differently from Tyler, who plays mostly at 5, and Blatche who is only a 4 – picked one position over the other. He’ll be a 3 with Tseng and Zhang or a 4, and he’ll be equally fine. Could maybe pass up on some threes a bit, but he’s shooting 36% on them, so no problem.
3 – Andray Blatche, Xinjiang, 30,7 ppg, 14,8 rpg, 5 apg.
All-Star here. MVP candidate, as well. But most of all, here’s a man that picked the right team. Xinjiang didn’t need him to be a 5 having at least Su Wei and Tang Z. (after all there was no certainty over Zhou Qi’s real impact), was ready to cope with his personality by already having its share of Dark Knights and most of all was going to put him in a winning environment with lots of motivations. I could go on and consider Xinjiang’s eternal second status as more fuel to light Blatche up, since he seems to like being a hero. Well, who doesn’t?
On the court, he’s been left out of the rotation for a C spot and that’s his coach’s greatest merit. The 4-spot lets him be the perimeter forward he really is, and no player has been able to confront him. He’s a great player and a matchup nightmare. It seems easy to take his play for granted, but all the right moves – some of them weren’t obvious at all – have been made to guarantee it, and we all should be grateful for that.
That’s it, for now. So long, and take care!