We are three games into a new and promising Chinese Basketball Association season, where we may finally have no clear-cut favorites ahead of schedule while players with long resumes are now affordable for every team in the league.
Among the top 25 scorers, 19 have been in the CBA in some form or fashion. Only one is Chinese, however.
It’s an unlikely name, too: Cui Jinming, a 23-year-old smooth shooter in his third season who is kinda having the hot hand these days, shooting 62 percent from 3-point range on 4.5 attempts per game.
Nevertheless, as long as you don’t demand percentages in the sixties from your local shooters – and trust me, you don’t – you will need big-time foreign aid. NBA players are just the men for the job, too.
Let’s break down who has provided big numbers so far in this very early stage of the regular season.
MarShon Brooks, Jiangsu: 39.0 ppg, 2.7 spg
Life without Greg Oden is no easy task for the Jiangsu Dragons. The big man is recovering from a right hand injury suffered in preseason that has kept him on the sidelines, and the team remains winless after three contests.
Still, Brooks is sweetening the pill with ungodly games (49 points on 20-of-26 shooting vs. Qingdao) and crazy stats. The 2011 first-round pick is shooting 74 percent from inside the arc and 46 percent from outside on almost nine threes per game, so it is hard to bypass his incredible efficiency.
The question, of course, is how much help he will get from his local teammates and how much the team as a whole can improve defensively. The Dragons are currently allowing more than 110 points per game. Hopefully, this is an area where Oden will help once he is back on the floor.
Until then, well, at least we have putback dunks like this one, right?
Michael Beasley, Shandong: 32.3 ppg, 11.0 rpg, 2.7 spg
All this while providing some nice impressions of old-school Dirk Nowitzki.
But he missed the CBA playoffs last season, so he is giving it another shot in Shandong, where former Sacramento Kings guard Pooh Jeter already is a local legend and has been brought back by popular demand after some friction with members of the front office.
Adding to that picture, the local roster is better than average and features some talented youngsters. The most promising is 22-year-old swingman Ding Yanyuhang, who is bouncing back from a disappointing season and has the potential to be a 20-point scorer in the CBA and hopefully will contribute to their playoff push.
This team reached the 2013 CBA Finals with Jeter and pretty much the same local roster. Adding a former No. 2 overall pick with monstrous credibility and stats might be the winning ingredient it has been looking for.
Esteban Batista, Beikong: 32.5 ppg, 16.5 rpg, 2.0 bpg
Yes, that Esteban Batista. The same one who averaged less than 2 points per game playing for really bad Atlanta Hawks teams from 2005-07 is now a force in the CBA. This is no fluke, however, as the native of Uruguay has always been much more convincing in his non-NBA stints. Perhaps playing more than eight minutes per game helps.
The numbers don’t lie. Batista also is shooting 65 percent from the field. At the same time, he is shooting just 50 percent from the line, making him an intentional foul candidate. Two games shouldn’t be seen as an official consecration, and we won’t see him back in the NBA anytime soon. But all of this is happening in an up-and-coming environment.
Beikong was formerly known as Chongqing, a newly promoted team in the CBA after years of lowly existence in the NBL, theoretically the second-best league in China but really some sort of a purgatory where promotions to the big brothers in the CBA are few, far between and terribly inconsistent despite a recent surge in admissions of three teams in two years.
Recently acquired by a big company and relocated to Peking, the team is on the rise and also has acquired former Miami Heat and Portland Trail Blazers forward Dorell Wright, who is averaging 21,5 points. All this is currently amounting to a 2-1 start that is far exceeding expectations.
OTHERS TO WATCH
Marcus Williams, Jilin: 37.0 ppg, 8.7 rpg, 5.3 apg
Jonathan Gibson, Qingdao: 36.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg, 3.0 spg
Liam McMorrow, Tongxi: 31.7 ppg, 16.0 rpg