The top Chinese pro league is officially stacked. Here are seven hard-hitting reasons why.
When the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) launched in 1995 it looked more like a YMCA men’s league than a professional league. The quality of play has improved steadily, however, and by 2014 the league had a group of deep-pocketed teams able to acquire foreign stars as well as develop their own homegrown talent.
The CBA is now China’s favorite sports league and the focus of online betting in Malaysia, Singapore and China. Here are the best teams and players to bet on during the 2014-15 Season.
The top teams
Last season the Stephon Marbury-led Beijing Ducks ran away with the title. This time around the picture is a lot more crowded (but the Ducks are still in it!):
#1: Beijing Ducks, 16-5
The Real Madrid of Chinese basketball, the Ducks have been a perennial powerhouse for years. Last season they won the championship relying on the scoring prowess of former NBA star Stephon Marbury and all-purpose game of Randolph Morris (who also put in his time in the NBA).
One shouldn’t forget electrifying guard Sun Yue, who averages 3.7 assists per game in providing the yin to Marbury’s yang. No other team boasts the star power of the Ducks. Currently sitting at a 16-5 record, the boys from Beijing are in good and are only just hitting their stride.
#2: Liaoning Leopards 21-1
Without a doubt the Cinderella story of this season has been Liaoning, a team which was predicted to finish seventh by most sportswriters. The Leopards currently sit atop the CBA with a 21-1 record (on more win than they had all of last year).
The keys to their rapid turnaround have been the signings of two former NCAA stars, Lester Hudson and Deon Thompson. Hudson is the consensus top guard in the CBA and is in the running for Player of the Year. Thompson and veteran center Dejun Han bolster a bullish frontcourt.
#3: Guangdong Southern Tigers, 17-3
The Tigers have been the talk of the CBA throughout the season due to the addition of 18-year old phenom Emmanuel Mudiay, a player most expect to be taken near the top of the 2015 NBA Draft. Mudiay played in only nine games before going down with a bum ankle, but the Tigers haven’t missed a beat.
• Errick McCollum leads the CBA with 39.5 points-per-game
• The Liaoning Leopards have the league’s best record
• Emmanuel Mudiay is out for the season with an ankle injury
Led by a balanced group of veterans including Yi Jianlian (currently the best Chinese-born player), former NBA guard Will Bynum, and crafty center Chris Daniels, the Tigers have lost only three games all season. Online sportsbooks in Singapore are giving them high odds of winning the championship.
#4: Xinjiang Flying Tigers
One of the many Tigers roaring in the CBA (the league has no rules preventing duplicate team names), the flyers packed their roster with former top NBA prospects Andrey Blatche and Jordan Crawford, and now have one of the league’s most explosive teams.
The dynamic duo from across the Pacific joined 18-year old phenom Zhou Qi and sit with a 15-6 record. The 7-1 200-pound Qi is considered the most talented Chinese prospect since Yao and will have the chance to enter the NBA Draft in 2018. In the meantime, he is helping build a powerhouse in Xinjiang.
The most electrifying players
The injury to Emmanuel Mudiay and slowing of Stephon Marbury have dampened the league’s star power slightly, but they is plenty of top talent for fans and bettors to follow:
#5: Errick McCollum, Zhejiang Chouzhou Bears
McCollum came to close to earning an NBA contract after playing with the Denver Nuggets’ summer league team in 2014. Now, he is putting up outrageous stat-lines in a league known for inflated numbers.
His points-per-game average is a freakish 39.5, and while the Bears are near the CBA basement with a 6-15 record, there has no player more exciting to bet on than Errick McCollum.
#6: Andray Blatche, Xinjiang Flying Tigers
The former Washington Wizards and Brooklyn Nets forward took his skills to China because the Flying Tigers offered him the most money, not because he didn’t receive interest from NBA teams.
It appears that the CBA suits him well, as his size, strength and unique set of skills have allowed him to be a force on both ends of the court. He is second in the league with 14.5 rebounds per game and is also “chipping in” 30.4 points, putting him in the league’s top 10 scorers. His most impressive stat, however, may be his 5 assists per game, an outstanding number for a power forward.
#7: Dominique Jones, Jilin Northeast Tigers
Jones is arguable the league’s best point guard (having surpassed the aging Marbury and injured Mudiay) and consistently takes over games with both his scoring and passing. He is second in the league in scoring at 36 points-per-game and first in assists at 7.6.
Perhaps best of all, Jones has led the perennially-losing Tigers to a winning record in his first year with the team. This is only his second year in China after three seasons in the NBA, but it appears that he has found a home.