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Most number of games in a season awaits as CBA prepares to tip off
ZHEJIANG(China) - It feels like not long ago since the Guangdong Southern Tigers won the CBA title for the 2019-2020 season. As a matter of fact, it’s been exactly 2 months since Yi Jianlian and co. secured the franchises’ 10th title on August 16.
Their title defense will already be starting on October 17 when the 2020-2021 season tips off in Zhejiang. The first game at 4:00 PM (local time) will be between Jiangsu Dragons and Qingdao Eagles, while the headliner will be later at 7:35 PM (local time) between Guangdong and Zhejiang Golden Bulls.
Similar to the later part of last season, teams will be playing in a neutral location situated in the city of Zhuji with the 19 teams playing in two groups at two different venues. Nonetheless, CBA president Yao Ming has spoken about the possibility of shifting back to a home-and-away format down the road based on the situation of COVID-19 and national policies.
An exciting update for the fans in the upcoming season is the fact that there will be a total of 560 games to be played over 56 rounds, most ever in a season for China’s premier basketball league. From there, 12 teams will make it to the Playoffs to determine the champions of this season.
So which teams should fans be looking forward to watch in this upcoming season? Check it all out here!
Guangdong Southern Tigers (Previous Season : 44-2, Champions)
The defending champions will probably not be able to stroll through the league as they historically did last season, especially as Yi Jianlian is currently out with a ruptured Achilles tendon injury. Nonetheless, the Southern Tigers are back-to-back champs for more than just being Yi’s team.
Even without Yi, Guangdong are still be one of the best teams in the CBA. They are loaded with currentl national team standouts like Zhou Peng, Zhao Rui, and Ren Junfei, while having youngsters like Du Runwang, Xu Jie, and Hu Mingxuan means they are set for the future as well.
Liaoning Flying Leopards (Previous Season : 32-14, Lost in Finals)
Guo Ailun, Han Dejun, and OJ Mayo headlined the team through to the Finals and even sprung a surprise comeback win against the almighty Southern Tigers. They might seem to lack depth, but what they have is certainly a formula that has potential to win it all.
As if that wasn’t enough, they’ve added Zhang Zhenlin who will be playing in his first CBA season after spending the past two seasons in the NCAA. It’s not too farfetched to see the top-heavt Liaoning making it back to the Finals again this year.
Xinjiang Flying Tigers (Previous Season : 36-10, Lost in Semi-Finals)
Xinjiang had their eyes set on a title run last year and things didn’t pan out as they though it would. A large part of that was because of not having Abudushalamu Abudurexiti who had not played since last Christmas.
However, he should be back and that will raise the level of the strong title contenders. Zhou Qi is one of the best players in the league on both sides of the floor and will certainly be in the running for hist first MVP award. Also keep an eye out for Xinjiang’s promising young players, especially Qi Lin.
Beijing Ducks (Previous Season : 32-14, Lost in Semi-Finals)
Jeremy Lin generated the buzz around the Ducks last season, rightfully so, and it slightly did overshadow just how good the ducks were especially on defense.
They won’t have Lin this year, but national team regulars Zhai Xiaochuan and Fang Shou are still there as the stars of the team. The key to whether they can replicate or expand on last season’s success will be up to how their off-season acquisitions pan out. Li Muhao and Fan Ziming were brought in to anchor the paint, a troubling area for the Ducks in the past, and they should make this team even more well-rounded as ever.
Zhejiang Golden Bulls (Previous Season : 30-16, Lost in Quarter-Finals)
The Golden Bulls will go as far as their superstar Wu Qian will take them and as we saw last season, he can take them pretty far. Without a foreign player in the CBA bubble, Wu took the team on his shoulders and elevated his game to get them through to the Quarter-Finals with a season average of 17.9 points, 5.0 assists (career-high), and 2.3 steals (career-high) per game.
Alonside Wu was rising young gun Cheng Shuipeng, who has continued to impress in his 3rd season. The 21-year-old averaged a solid 11.2 points, 3.3 assists, and 2.0 steals per game - all career-highs.
Beijing Royal Righters (Previous Season : 29-17, Lost in Quarter-Finals)
Stephon Marbury made his coaching debut last season for the Royal Fighters and it resulted in promising signs heading into the future. The franchise made it to the Playoffs for the first time ever after their first winning season in the league. Not bad, coach Starbury.
Even at 35, Sun Yue (12.2 points, 3.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists per game) was able to make a successful comeback. As for the youngsters, last year’s No.1 pick Wang Shaojie, also had a promising season with 7.5 points and 3.1 assists per game. Couple that with off-season additions Li Gen and Yu Changdong and it’s possible coach Marbury might be able to exceed expectations once again.
Qingdao Eagles (Previous Season : 25-21, Lost in Quarter-Finals)
The Eagles were a slight surprised last season, finishing strong with a winning record and a trip to the Quarter-Finals. Anchored by strong foreign players and high quality vets in Zhang Chenyu and Zhao Tailong, underestimating the Eagles could be a mistake - as some teams found out last season.
Fujian Sturgeons (Previous Season : 24-22, Lost in Quarter-Finals)
The Fujian Sturgeons had one of their best seasons in recent memory last year, riding the wave of their stars’ success. When a team has a player like MVP candidate Wang Zhelin and lights out sharpshooter Chen Linjian, they become tough to beat.
The concern for Fujian fans is who steps up as the alternate options after that? Could it be Hu Longmao, Huang Yichao, or will there be a surprise contributor this season?
Zhejiang Lions (Previous Season : 30-16, Lost in First Round)
Dropping out in the First Round of the CBA Playoffs might seem disappointing for a 30-win team like the Lions, but don’t forget to take in consideration of the context that they played through the CBA bubble without a foreign player.
Forced to take matters in their own hands, the local players stepped up to a very promising level. Sun Minghui catapulted his stock to become an early MVP candidate for this season and has continued his heightened level of play even in the post-season. Sun and Hu Jinqiu are the dynamic duo of this promising squad and will be surround by solid supporting players like Zhao Yanhao and Li Jinglong in a bounce back season.
Shandong Heroes (Previous Season : 24-22, Lost in First Round)
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Official Announcement! Two-time MVP Ding Yanyuhang has signed a maximum contract with the Shandong Heroes. Ding suffered injuries for the last two years and last time he showed up in CBA was in 2017-2018 season, when he could average 26.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.2 assists and he also won the MVP that year. #resume #cba #chinesebasketballassociation #chinesebasketball #fire #court #game #basketball #ball #sports #back #love #balling #passion #whyweplay #trade #newstart #newcontract
The Shandong Heroes have been floating around in the middle of the table in the past year. They’ve been able to be competitive with the play of big man Tao Hanlin, but have struggled to take a step to the next level with the lack of another bonifide star.
That might change this season as they are expected to bring back Ding Yan Yuhang into the mix. It might be easy to forget that Ding was a two-time MVP as recent as no more than 2 years ago and despite his recent healed injuries, he should be able to push the Heroes up another notch.
Jilin Northeast Tigers (Previous Season : 24-22, Lost in First Round)
For a team as young as Jilin, it’s not a surprise that they were a bit inconsistent last season. Whenever they clicked, however, these young (Northeast) Tigers were pretty good.
Cui Jinming provides the veteran steadiness that is needed alongside rising stars in Jiang Yuxing and Jiang Weize. Maybe they’ll take a bit more time to figure things out… or maybe they’ll rise to greatness this season. Who knows? It sure does seem like a safe bet that these Tigers have quite a bite in them.
Shanxi Loongs (Previous Season : 24-22, Lost in First Round)
Yuan Shuai had a breakout season with Shanxi, going for 15.3 points per game on 56 percent shooting from the field, 46 percent shooting on three-pointers, and 86 percent shooting from the charity stripe. Along with Ren Jun Wei, Shanxi were also able to be competitive throughout the CBA season.
The duo will get a much-needed added boost of talent in highly-regarded prospect Zhang Ning, the 8th overall pick out of Peking University. Shanxi are hoping that Zhang will be able to make the 7 teams that passed up on him regret their decision as soon as possible.
Shenzhen Aviators (Previous Season : 20-26, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
The Aviators will surely miss having Li Muhao in the paint after his move to Beijing, but it’s not a devastating blow. That’s because they still have 23-year-old big man Shen Zijie who has improved his stats in each of his 4 seasons playing in the league.
He Xining is also on the rise as the team’s outside option and they can also expect youth national team standout Lu Pengyu to contribute even more in his second CBA season. There’s plenty of youth in Shenzhen’s line up, so the future seems to be on their side.
Nanjing Monkey Kings (Previous Season : 18-28, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
Nanjing have struggled in the past few seasons, but had a good off-season to start things off this year.
Picking up Xirelijiang from Xinjiang is a huge move and we’ll get to see if that pushes the Monkey Kings in the right direction for the future. Already in his 12th season, Xirelijiang proved that he is more that just a shooter but putting up a career-high 4.5 assists per game while still being a solid enough scorer of nearly double-digits on average.
Jiangsu Dragons (Previous Season : 17-29, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
The Dragons survived an off-season scare after Wu Guanxi finally decided to renew his contract with the team for the upcoming future.
Wu is currently the heart and soul of the team with solid numbers of 15.3 points and 5.6 rebounds per game last season. Jiangsu need more from him and everyone else, but re-signing their star back for more is a great start to get things going.
Shanghai Sharks (Previous Season : 16-30, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
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Offical Announcement! The Shanghai Sharks have signed with 8 new players including Jimmer Fredette and Marcus Denmon. In 2018-2019 season, Jimmer Fredette averaged 36.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 2.6 steals. In 2019-2020 season, Marcus Denmon averaged 28.4 points, 5.1 rebounds, 6.5 assists and 1.8 steals. #resume #cba #chinesebasketballassociation #chinesebasketball #fire #court #game #basketball #ball #sports #back #love #balling #passion #whyweplay #trade #newstart #newcontract
The Shanghai Sharks were one of the most busiest teams during the off-season and it paid off. The Sharks were able to pick up solid veterans in Kelanbaike Makan from Xinjiang and Liu Cheng from Guangsha who will surely help raise the level of consistency in the squad. They also won the CBA draft lottery and selected highly touted big man Michael Ou (Ou Junxuan) from Cal State Northridge.
There’s still quite some work that Shanghai will have to do to be considered as serious contenders, but this off-season seems like a step un the right direction.
Sichuan Blue Whales (Previous Season : 11-35, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
There’s still a lot of rebuilding in store for the Blue Whales, but they found a silver lining towards the end of last season in guard, Yuan Tangwen. After just turned 20 this year, Yuan went on a dime-dropping streak to finish with 5.1 assists per game in his rookie season. He had multiple games of dishing at least 13 assists and it’s even earned him some looks for a potential national team debut.
Guangzhou Loong Lions (Previous Season : 10-36, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
After loading themselves with top draft picks in the recent years, the Guangzhou Loong Lions are hopeful that it will all start paying off.
2017 No.1 pick Ray Chen (Chen Ying-Chun) was phenomenal in the later stages of the past season, despite being unable to carry Guangzhou to the Playoffs. 2018 No. 1 pick Guo Kai has bounced back nicely from an injury and has showed potential to be a solid big man in the coming years. Their pick this year at No.2, Zhu Ming Zhen, has potential to be a legit wing contributor as well, so the future is also bright for the Sharks if they play their pieces correctly.
Tianjin Pioneers (Previous Season : 8-38, Didn’t qualify for Playoffs)
After finishing with the league’s worst record last season, there should be no way but up for the Pioneers. Shi Deshuai is an underrated stud who can score efficiently, while Meng Zikai had a promising run to close out a season to forget.
Their highlight for this season is bringing in No.2 draft pick Benson Lin (Lin Ting-Chien) who just wrapped up a stellar freshman year at Bryant University in the NCAA. They’re a young team that will need time to figure things out, but should be exciting to watch.