Chinese Basketball Association 2014 – 2015 season preview

The new and improved Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) is ready to tip-off its 19th season on November 1st when the defending champion Beijing Ducks take on Emmanual Mudiay and the Guangdong Southern Tigers.

This was the busiest CBA off-season in league history. With big time NBA names like Metta World Peace, Jordan Crawford, Toney Douglas, Michael Beasley, Delonte West and Andray Blatche signing contracts in China, the CBA has officially become the NBA’s little brother. The CBA also expanded its league from 18 teams to 20 (Chongqing and Tongxi).

Here is a team-by-team breakdown of what exactly is going down in China.

** Team rankings are based on their 2013-2014 records

1. Beijing Ducks (23-11)

±±¾©Ê׸ÖÐÂÈü¼¾¹Ù·½Ð´Õæ Âí²¼Àï°ç¿áĪÀï˹¸ã¹Ö

Foreign players: Stephon Marbury (Georgia Tech) , Randolph Morris (Kentucky)

Last season, Stephon Marbury went down early in the season with a knee injury and was forced to fly back to USA for surgery. Damien Wilkins stepped in and did a phenomenal job leading the Ducks to the playoffs. Marbury came back for the playoffs and acted as a facilitator while foreign teammate Randolph Morris completely took over. The Ducks would go on to win the CBA championship in six games against Xinjiang. Morris was named the finals MVP.

This season, the Ducks are in good position to repeat as champions. Their biggest off-season move was re-signing former NBA talent Sun Yue. They’ve also added some depth to their lineup by picking up veteran point guard Zhang Qingpeng from Xinjiang. Zhang was a member of China’s 2008 national olympic team. There is always question surrounding the health of 37 year-old Stephon Marbury. He is entering his 18th year of professional basketball. His foreign teammate, Randolph Morris, is a Chinese basketball veteran. He knows exactly when to step up his game and knows when to take a few possessions off. Together, Marbury and Morris have great chemistry and are the toughest foreign duo in the league.

2. Xinjiang Flying Tigers (26-8)


Foreign players: Andray Blatche (Henninger High School) , Jordan Crawford (Xavier)

Last season, they were two wins away from winning the CBA championship. They were led by the foreign duo of James Singleton and foreign player of the year Lester Hudson. Singleton broke his hand in the finals and that might have been the deciding factor. If it wasn’t for Singleton’s injury, Xinjiang would have been champions.

This season, is just wow! Have you ever heard of a team that has four seven-footers? Welcome to Xinjiang. Their biggest pickup outside of their stacked foreign players (Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford) was Zhou Qi. He’s a young 7 footer who was on China’s national team at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. If anything, he is a rim protector who can some what run the floor. But when you have Jordan Crawford playing perimeter D, all Zhou Qi needs to do is stay under the hoop with his hands up and grab rebounds. Xinjiang was also able to steal away former Sacramento Kings guard Liu Wei from Shanghai. Andray Blatche proved at this year’s FIBA World Cup that he can flat out ball when the rock is in his hands. The CBA gives foreigners the green light to do anything they want on the floor. Blatche’s freestyle game will catch other teams off-guard. Xinjiang’s owner is worth about $40 billion and he’s not shy to spend his money of his basketball team. This is the year that Xinjiang wins it all.

3. Guangdong Southern Tigers (30-4)


Foreign players: Emmanuel Mudiay (Prime Prep High School) , Chris Daniels (Texas A&M)

Last season, they finished on top of the regular season standings with only four losses the entire year. But we all know it’s not how you star, it’s how you finish. Foreign guard, Khalif Whiatt, was dropped from the team. Then, Guangdong acquired NBA champion Shannon Brown who would never show up for his flight to China. The team was left scrambling to find another player until they signed NBA veteran Royal Ivey to come and play some defense. Ivey was good, but the rest of the team wasn’t. Former NBA lottery pick Yi Jianlian was impressive but father time seems to be kicking in day after day. They would make it to the semi-finals against Beijing. It was right then and there that signs of frustration were implemented deep into the organization. During a semi-finals game in Beijing, Guangdong’s foreign coach missed the game due to an “ankle injury”. Yes, very strange. Chinese assistant coach Du Feng took over as bench boss and we have yet to hear from the foreign coach since the “ankle injury”. He is presumed to have been fired but nonetheless, Beijing would end up kicking Guangdong out of the playoffs.

This season, they will be making international headlines due in large part to the signing of Emmanuel Mudiay fresh out of high school. Mudiay decided to skip the NCAA and go straight to the pros. It’s been rumoured that Mudiay is driving a Lamborghini in China, the team is taking care of him. He is teamed up with Chris Daniels (who is also from Texas, Mudiay’s home state) and Yi Jianlian who both played in the NBA. Guangdong also possesses one of the deadliest shooters in China, Wang ShiPeng. There is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of 19-year-old Mudiay, China is not know for being tolerant on development. They want results fast. It will take Mudiay some time to adjust, but he should figure it out fast, or else he will be on a plane back to USA.

4. Dongguang Flying Leopards (25-9)


Foreign players: Bobby Brown (Cal State Fullerton) , Ike Diogu (Arizona State)

Last season, they fought hard. This team beat all expectations and got themselves to the CBA semi-finals before being swept by Xinjiang. Bobby Brown was instant offense throughout the year for the Flying Leopards. He was one point shy of breaking the single game scoring record when he dropped 74-points in a 2OT win against Sichuan in December. Brown, Donte Green and Li Muhao were a dynamic trio.

This season, Bobby Brown is back. Donte Green is out. Green fell into some off-season troubles back in America that forced Dongguang to part ways with him. They signed NBA vet Ike Diogu. Dongguang will like Diogu’s 7’4″ wingpsan, the problem is, CBA referees might not. Diogu has played in the CBA before, in 2012, with Guangdong. Li Muhao is coming off a knee injury that kept him out of team China this summer. Muhao declared for the NBA draft this summer but went undrafted. Kai Zhang, a seven foot center who once participated in the Sacramento Kings training camp will bring size a veteran leadership to Dongguang.

5. Zhejiang Guangsha Lions (21-13)


Foreign players: Elijah Holman (Detroit) , Jamaal Franklin (San Diego State)

Last season, Jonathan Gibson was a scoring machine. He won the CBA scoring title by scoring 32 points per game. Guangsha started the season with Johan Petro but dumped him early to pick up former Minnesota Timberwolves center Chris Johnson. Johnson would end up winning the CBA’s slam dunk contest but Guangsha would be eliminated from the playoffs to the hands of Beijing.

This season, Elijah Holman and Jamaal Franklin are both making their CBA debut. They are both young players who can bring a lot of energy to Guangsha’s uptempo style of basketball. Taiwanese national Lin Zhijie will look to improve off of his mediocre 14 points per game last season. Jamaal Franklin was on the same San Diego State team as NBA MVP Kawhi Leonard. Franklin will have to improve his ball handling because the ball will be in his hands for the majority of the game.

6. Tianjin Golden Lions (20-14)


Foreign players: Sheldon Williams (Duke) , Quincy Douby (Rutgers)

Last season, Sebastian Telfair and Sheldon Williams really found their rhythm late in the year and made a strong push into the finals before being knocked out by Dongguang in the quarterfinals. Telfair really stepped up with unbelievable individual performances in the playoffs. He averaged 26 points throughout the season. It helped to have a third foreign/Asian player in Abbas Zaid, but with the team making the playoffs, you can kiss that luxury goodbye.

This season, Tianjin were able to bring back head coach Carl Nash but failed to come to terms with Sebastian Telfair despite offering him the highest salary in league history ($7 million a year). Telfair opted to take a pay cut and test out the NBA. He’s now the starting point guard of the Oklahoma City Thunder. Tianjin lucked out by signing one of the top guards in the CBA, Quincy Douby. Sheldon Williams comes back to the team and will love Douby’s playmaking on a nightly basis. This team should go deeper into the playoffs, especially if Nan Zhang can continue his hot shooting.

7. Liaoning Leopards (20-14)

Thompson Hudson Liaoning

Foreign players: Deon Thompson (North Carolina) , Lester Hudson (Tennessee at Martin)

Last season, Liaoning had so many problems with their second foreign player. Their first guy was NBA champion Dominique Jones. He played 38 games and averaged 24 points per contest. He was fine. Chris Daniels started the year off with the Leopards. He played in eight games avergaging 16 points and eight rebounds before being released. Next up was University of Florida alumni Vernon Macklin. He lasted a total of seven games before getting the boot. Finally, Liaoning went with Hakim Warrick to close out the year. Warrick averaged 21 points and nine assists. During the off-season, Chris Daniels and the Liaoning Leopards were caught in a contract/money dispute that saw it escalate to the FIBA courts. The final verdict was that Liaoning had to pay Daniels or else they would no longer be able to sign foreign players.

This season, Liaoning landed the reigning CBA foreign player of the year Lester Hudson and former North Carolina Tar-heel Deon Thompson. They also have Guo Ailun who is one of the top Chinese point guards in the league. Guo missed most of last season due to an injury. The “Chinese Shaq” Han Dejun returns for his seventh pro season. Let’s hope the 7’1″, 320 pound, Han shows up in better shape than what he was in last season. With Hudson, Guo and Thompson running the show, Liaoning should make it to the playoffs again this year.

8. Shanghai Sharks (20-14)

Yao Delonte Beasley

Foreign players: Michael Beasley (Kansas State) , Delonte West (Saint Joseph’s)

Last season, Quincy Douby and Darnell Jackson led Shanghai to the quarterfinals where they would be swept by Guangdong. The two foreigners together averaged 50 points per game. Chineses national team point guard Liu Wei was consistent throughout the year. You couldn’t watch a Shanghai Sharks game without noticing 7’3″ Chinese big man Zhang Zhaoxu. Shanghai found themselves depending too much on their foreigners and at the end of the year, their Chinese players couldn’t keep up to Guangdong’s domestic players.

This season, Sharks owner Yao Ming went after some of the most profiled ballers in America. Michael Beasley and Delonte West will entertain the crowd on a nightly basis. The Sharks lost point guard Liu Wei but picked up Taiwanese forward Tseng Wen-ting. Zhang Zhaoxu is only getting better every year but injuries are always a concern with a big seven footer. If the CBA had a ‘League Pass’, then the Shanghai Sharks would be your team to watch on ‘CBA League Pass’.

9. Shandong Flaming Bulls (19-15)


Foreign players: Miroslav Raduljica (Serbia) , Pooh Jeter (Portland)

Last season, the Flaming Bulls were coming off a year where they made it all the way to the CBA championships. They a lot of hype to live up to. Pooh Jeter was the only one of the three foreigners that returned from that team. Shandong lost Jackson Vroman but picked up Donnell Harvey. It just wasn’t the same. Shandong became the middle of the pack team that couldn’t really win big games.

This season, the Flaming Bulls picked up Miroslav Raduljica who was one of the toughest players at this year’s FIBA world cup in Spain. By signing Raduljica and bringing back Pooh Jeter, Shandong is trying to replicate the season they had two years ago. A player to watch is Chinese national player Ding YanYuhang. He was the team’s second best scorer and seems to improve every year. Shandongd will look for consistency this year behind Australian coach Rob Beveridge.

10. Fujian Sturgeons (16-18)

Fujian Sturgeons

Foreign players: Corey Fisher (Villanova) , Al Harrington (St. Patrick High School)

Last season, they were overrated. Wang Zhelin just wasn’t the player everyone had expected him to be. Delonte West got into some internal problems with the team. Will McDonald looked lost in the middle of it all. It just seemed like a mess. They failed to make the playoffs and failed to implement an identity for themselves in the league.

This season, they cleaned house. With new foreign players and a new foreign coach, Fujian looks to compete with the top dogs this year. Al Harrington is one of the highest profiled NBA veterans to ever play in the CBA. He pleaded his case to the team to bring a New York city legend (who went to the same high school as Harrington despite the age gap) Corey Fisher to the team and go what he wished for. Wang Zhelin spent the entire summer playing with the Chinese national team so he should be in game shape. The Fujian Sturgeons are certainly going to finish with much better record than last year.

11. Jiangsu Dragons (15-19)

Toney Douglas and Chris Singleton

Foreign players: Toney Douglas (Florida State) , Chris Singleton (Florida State)

Last season, the Jiangsu Dragons started the season with nine losses and six wins in their first 15 games. Jackson Vroman and Marcus Haislip were the two foreigners for Jiangsu but didn’t have any Chinese talents to back them up. Meng Da, who was supposed to retire to become a police officer, played in all 38 games averaging a team high 38 minutes per game contributed with 13 points per game but was a liability on the defensive end.

This season, the goal is to make the playoffs. It’s been three years since Jiangsu has seen the post-season. To facilitate the goal of making the playoffs, the team owner spent $10 million USD in salaries (pretty high in China). Toney Douglas and Chris Singleton were college teammates and might match the chemistry of Randolph Morris and Stephon Marbury in Beijing. Douglas can defend any foreign guard in China while Singleton is an NBA talent who can score from anywhere on the floor. It’s playoffs or bust for this team.

12. Sichuan Blue Whales (14-20)

Metta World Peace China

Foreign players: Metta World Peace (St. John’s) , Michael Efevberha (Cal State Northridge)

Last season, the Sichuan Blue Whales were an expansion team. They had the best foreign/Asian in Hamed Haddadi but it’s easy to write off the season because, well, it was an expansion year.

This season, is going to awesome! Metta World Peace is already doing Metta World Peace things by wearing panda slippers during games. He’s the self proclaimed ‘Panda’s friend’ and is a huge hit in international media. Michael Efevberha aka. ‘Money Mike’ is a gifted basketball talent who has unlimited range and finishes Harlem Globe Trotter like layups in traffic. ‘Money Mike’ and the ‘Panda’s Friend’ are going to be a force in China. What surrounds those two talents is a lot of nothing. Other than 6’11” Xu Tao (who played college ball at the University of San Francisco), Sichuan’s dept remains the question. There’s no doubt that Metta World Peace will dominate, the doubt lies in the capability of his teammates.

13. Zhejiang Golden Bulls(13-21)


Foreign players: Errick McCollum (Goshen) , Charles Gaines (Southern Mississippi)

Last season, it was the Ivan Johnson show that quickly turned into the Ivan Johnson no show. Johnson was cut from the team after having several arguments with some of the staff. Dewarick Spencer came in and played very well but with the departure of Mike Harris, the team chemistry went way down. The Golden Bulls are hoping to forget last year and move on from the Ivan Johnson days.

This season, Errick McCollum has already asserted himself as a lethal weapon for Zhejiang. In a preseason matchup against Emmanual Mudiay and the Guangdong Southern Tigers, McCollum went off for 34 points while Mudiay score seven. McCollum is the older brother of Portland Trail Blazer guard C.J. McCollum. Charles Gaines moves from Shanxi to Zhejiang. Gaines is a boulder inside and plays with a lot of intensity. He’s a skilled big man who averaged about 10 free throw attempts per game last year.

14. Jilin Northeast Tigers (12-22)


Foreign players: Dominique Jones (South Florida) , Denzel Bowles (James Madison) , Michael Madanly (Syria)

Last season, Jilin was that team who was just happy to be in the league. They didn’t want spend a lot of money on players so they took what they could get. Tony Mitchell was supposed to be their star guy. But he left after 11 games to go back to the NBA D-League. Jilin brought in Leon Rogers to replace him but it was too little too late. Denzel Bowles was the other foreigner. Bowles is the type of player who won’t complain and will give you 100 % every night. They finished in the bottom four of the league meaning they would be eligible to pick up a foreign/Asian in 2014-2015.

This season, they brought Bowles back and picked up Dominique Jones who played in Liaoning last year. Their poor performance last year allowed them to sign Michael Madanly, known in Syria as the best Syrian basketball player of all-time. He should be fun the watch seeing how most have never heard of him. Twenty-four-year-old Biao Zhang is an up-and-coming Chinese prospect who gets solid minutes in for Jilin. They might climb their way out of the bottom of the standings, or they not. Dominique Jones is one of the top-5 guards in the league. If he can get going, watch out.

15. Foshan Long Lions (11-23)


Foreign players: Fadi El Khatib (Lebanon) , Josh Akognon (Cal State Fullerton) , Viacheslav Kravtsov (Ukraine)

Last season, started off with one of the best foreign players in Shavlik Randolph. Unfortunately for all parties, Randolph got injured and went back to America after just six games. Randolph would later sign with the Phoenix Suns leaving Foshan irate. The two sides would have settle the contract in FIBA’s court as it turned out to be a nasty breakup. The team spent the rest of the year trying to come up with other available foreigners. They would sign Dexter Pittman, he only played in seven games. They signed Thomas Young, he only played in 16 games. The foreign player who played the most games was Gerald Fitch who used to backup Jason Williams in Miami, he played in 24 of the CBA’s 34 games. It was just a confusing season all around for Foshan.

This season, their biggest pick up is European big-man Viacheslav Kravtsov who saw some time in the NBA. Foshan is looking to bring a European style of play and try to build an identity based off of that. Josh Akognon is a quick Russell Westbrook like scorer. Fadi El Khatib is a swingman with a nice touch inside and knack for crashing the boards. Zhu Xu Hang is a developing 6’10” big man who will learn a lot from Kravtsov. Foshan made some key moves this off-season, but they might still be stuck at the bottom of the pack come February.

16. Shanxi Brave Dragons (10-24)


Foreign players: Jeremy Tyler (San Diego High School) , Daniel Orton (Kentucky) , Abbas Zaid (Jordan)

Last season, they were much better than what their record showed. Marcus Williams was a top-3 guard. He could flat out ball. Williams plays just like Jamal Crawford of the NBA. They both have wicked crossover moves followed by crazy high arching jump shots that hit nothing but net. He and Charles Gaines ran a solid squad in Shanxi but for some reason they just couldn’t close out games.

This season, the team has decided to start fresh. Jeremy Tyler could very well be on an NBA team right now. He is one of those players who opted not to go to college and go straight to the pros beginning his basketball career in Japan. Don’t be surprised if Tyler gets a call from the NBA mid-season. Daniel Orton was a first round NBA draft pick out of Kentucky in 2010. He was in and out of the NBA and D-League for a few years. This is his first experience of overseas basketball. Abbas Zaid brings adds CBA experiences and will act as a veteran to the two foreign youngsters (Tyler and Orton). Shanxi also picked up a talented Chinese guard, Luo Zhi from Foshan. Luo Zhi is a three-point specialist who averaged 11 points per game last year.

17. Bayi Rockets (6-28)


Foreign players: None – Chinese Military Team

Last season, they said goodbye to one of the best Chinese basketball players of all-time, Wang Zhizhi. The 7’0″ Wang Zhizhi who spent time playing in the NBA and rivaled Yao Ming growing up decided to call it quits after 19 years of professional basketball. He was the one and only player for Bayi.

This season, they will finish last. It’s too difficult to win with only Chinese players in a league full of teams with foreign players. Bayi is China’s military team. Only those who are enrolled in the army can play on Bayi. With Wang Zhizhi out Tian Yuxiang becomes their go-to scorer. Last season, Tian Yuxiang averaged 15 points a game.

18. Qingdao DoubleStar Eagles (5-29)


Foreign players: Justin Dentmon (Washington) , Hamed Haddadi (Iran) , Mike Harris (Rice)

Last season, they were trying to get over the T-Mac epidemic. They were just so awful last year. The highlight of their year was when the cheerleaders became too distracting, league officials nearly fined the team for it.

This season, watch out. Qingdao hit a home run this off-season signing three very talented foreign players. First, Justin Dentmon, he is one of the best basketball players to never make it to the NBA. He was D-League MVP and a top player in the Euroleague. In college, he was teammates with Brandon Roy. Dentmon is going to be dynamite for Qingdao. Second, Hamed Haddadi, he is the top foreign/Asian player, no questions asked. Haddadi spent five years in the NBA. At 29-years-old, Haddadi suffers from chronic foot injuries but when he’s healthy; he’s dominant. Finally Mike Harris is a 31 year old journeyman who brings veteran experience to the team. He’s like a coach on the floor. It’s way too early to say Qingdao will go from worse to first, but for sure they are moving out of the CBA’s basement.

19. Chongqing Fly Dragons (Expansion Team)


Foreign players: Willie Warren (Oklahoma) , Josh Harrellson (Kentucky) , Arsalan Kazemi (Iran)

Last season, Not Applicable.

This season, Expansion Team.

20. Jiangsu Tongxi (Expansion Team)

Jiangsu Tongxi

Foreign players: Will McDonald (South Florida) , Brandon Costner (North Carolina State) , Mehdi Kamrani (Iran)

Last season, Not Applicable.

This season, Expansion Team.

Nick Bedard (@bedardnick) is the editor-in-chief of

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *