March 2, 2018, 4:04 pm
Welcome back Hoop Ballers to our International Spotlight weekly feature where we will be focusing on the most notable players in the CBA this year, some of which could emerge as late-season additions by NBA teams.
The CBA regular season ended a few weeks ago on February 11th while playoffs don’t start until this Saturday, March 3rd once the Chinese New Year break is over.
The level of competition and athleticism in the CBA is a ways away from the talent and athleticism found in the NBA but every year a whole lot of guys are looking to play for the NBA minimum. With 35-year-old Emeka Okafor resurfacing in the league this season many agents will definitely try to get their clients back in the mix.
The eye-popping stats that occur in CBA don’t really fool NBA GM’s but with the competition rapidly increasing in recent years teams do keep an eye on young talent while more NBA veterans sign in China.
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Eliminated from playoffs and eligible to sign with teams
Jamaal Franklin, Sichuan Blue Whales, SG, 26 years old
A former second round pick by the Grizzlies in 2013, Franklin is a 6’5″ combo guard and probably the best all around US player in China the last couple seasons. He averaged almost a triple-double last year with 33.6 points, 10.3 rebounds and 8.8 assists, leading the league is steals (3.3) in 36 games. After pursuing an NBA return this offseason, he agreed upon a two-year, $4 million deal with Sichuan this summer, but the team bought him out in December after posting 31.5 points, 9.4 rebounds, 5.2 assists and 2.4 steals in 26 games. His G-League rights are held by Brooklyn’s affiliate, the Long Island Nets.
Jonathan Gibson, Quingdao Eagles, PG, 30 years old
Gibson is a scoring machine and has been absolutely ridiculous in China this year with a couple 60-point games while averaging 33.7 points and 4.7 assists per contest on 52 percent. He played 11 games with the Mavericks in 2016 and became the first undrafted player to score 26 points in his first or second official game for Dallas since Lloyd Daniels in 1992.
J.J. Hickson, Jiangsu Tong Xi, PF/C, 29 years old
Hickson has spent the last couple seasons in China where he was second in rebounding with 14.7 per game this year. He averaged almost 30 points (29.6), posting a few 20-20 games but his team missed the playoffs and he only shot 65 percent from the free throw line.
Brandon Jennings, Shanxi Dragons, PG, 28 years old
Playing on a team that featured former NBA player Luis Scola, Jennings led the team in points (27.9), assists (6.8) and steals (2.7) while shooting 38 percent from deep. He is already back in the G-League with the Wisconsin Herd hoping to secure an NBA deal. Jennings is relatively young and could still get another shot at the NBA dream but he failed to impress last year in the playoffs and his time might be up.
Andrew Nicholson, Guangdong Southern Tigers, PF, 28 years old
Nicholson bounced around the league since getting drafted by the Magic in 2012 and was eventually stretched and waived by the Blazers this past summer. He has been playing really well with the Tigers of the CBA this season, averaging 23.3 points and 8.4 rebounds while being able to make the 3-pointer (2.2 triples on 41 percent) and prove himself as a reliable stretch big.
Russ Smith, Fujian Sturgeons, G, 26 years old
The CBA is apparently no match for Russ Smith as he torched the league with averages of 33.6 points, 6.9 assists and 1.9 steals on 47 percent in 32 games. The former second round pick is not very athletic and struggled with size in the NBA but he can score in many ways and is a force in the open court.
Derrick Williams, Tianjin Gold Lions, F, 26 years old
Williams remained in the US until the end of December hoping for an NBA comeback before signing with the Gold Lions and averaging 20.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 1.4 assists, 1.9 steals and 0.7 blocks in just 15 games. He shot 49.2 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from three-point range and is someone who NBA teams could take a hard look at.
Still in the playoffs
In an effort to increase the competitive level of the league, playoffs in China were expanded from eight teams to 10 teams starting this season. Here are a few guys that will remain in the CBA for a few more weeks.
Brandon Bass, Liaoning Dinosaurs, 32 years old
One NBA veteran teams are consistently monitoring over in China is Brandon Bass. His stats are not outrageous as he’s averaging 22.4 points and 9.8 rebounds on 57 percent shooting in 32 minutes per game but his presence has helped Liaoning finish second in the regular season and chances are he’s on an NBA roster after the CBA season ends.
MarShon Brooks, Jiangsu Dragons, SG, 29 years old
Brooks has spent the last three seasons in China and had a few 50-point games this year while averaging 37.8 points (second in the league), 5.7 assists and 4.0 triples per contest. His defense has always been an issue but he was part of the NBA All-Rookie Second Team in 2011 and still has plenty of basketball left in him.
Jimmer Fredette, Shanghai Sharks, SG, 29 years old
Jimmer has found his groove in China the last couple years while posting 37.5 points, 5.4 assists, 6.7 rebounds, 2.0 steals and an impressive 5.3 triples per game this year. Unfortunately, it’s not that hard to post this kind of numbers in the CBA but he led his team to the playoffs and he absolutely wants to prove that he still belongs in the NBA.
Justin Hamilton, Beijing Ducks, PF/C, 27 years old
Hamilton was part of the Nets rotation last year where he averaged 6.9 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.4 minutes per game. He shot an ugly 30.6 percent from deep but his 2.8 three-point attempts per game made opposing defenses respect him as a shooter. Moving over to China this year he led his team with averages of 24.8 points and 10.9 rebounds in 38 starts with the Ducks.
Ty Lawson, Shandong Golden Stars, PG, 30 years old
Lawson is averaging 25.8 points and 6.6 assists per game while shooting 56.8 percent from the field and 41.3 percent from deep. He didn’t play in the NBA this season and therefore he could still participate in the CBA Playoffs and return to the NBA just for the postseason. The Wizards reportedly considered signing him on a 10-day contract a couple of weeks ago but they changed course and opted to sign Ramon Sessions instead.
Donatas Motiejunas, Shandong Golden Stars, PF/C, 27 years old
The Lithuanian big man is averaging 22.8 points and 11.6 rebounds in 38 games this year showing that his injury woes are way behind him. He is only 27 years old and could still get another chance as long as he can prove he can remain healthy at the highest level.
Jared Sullinger, Shenzhen Leopards, PF, 25 years old
Sullinger heaved over to China this year in an attempt to revive his career after a horrendous stint with the Raptors where he was overweight and completely out of shape following foot surgery. He has been playing very well overall with averages of 30.4 points, 16.7 rebounds, 3.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks and he fits today’s NBA style as a big man who can stretch the floor.
Darius Adams, Xinjiang Guanghui, PG, 28 years old
Last year’s MVP, Adams led the league in scoring and minutes with averages of 40.1 points, 8.9 assists and 2.7 steals but he also committed 4.0 turnovers per game. Even after starring at the Division-II level, Adams was forced to work his way into a spot in the coveted European leagues with previous stops in Venezuela, the Dominican Republic and Ukraine.
Courtney Fortson, Zheijiang Guangsha, PG, 29 years old
Fortson led his team to the regular season championship and was selected as the CBA’s MVP after an incredible season where he averaged 31.1 points, 7.8 rebounds and league-leading numbers in assists (12.0) and steals (2.7). He is another undersized guard who had short stints in the NBA with the Clippers and the Rockets while also playing for the Los Angeles D-Fenders before heading overseas.
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Stats are courtesy of RealGM.com and Basketball-Reference.com and are accurate as of March 2nd .