Stretch Big

Ike Diogu Scouting Report

Ike Diogu is another stretch five who is having a huge impact in the Chinese league this season. Li Muhao’s development has stagnated and Dongguan has primarily relied on the 31-year-old of Nigerian descent as a multi-dimensional scorer at center to stay in the hunt for a postseason berth.

Dongguan relies heavily on the three-point shot, with over a third of its total attempts coming from beyond the arc, and Diogu is a key contributor. He often gravitates towards the perimeter and isn’t shy of pulling the trigger, taking over a fourth of his shots from three-point range. Diogu doesn’t elevate much and doesn’t have a particularly quick release but does well when left open, having converted 43.8% of his 130 such shots.

He’s hitting enough from the outside to be respected, which draws the opposing big man a step closer when he’s roaming beyond the arc and permits him to take them off the bounce. Diogu gets isolated on the top of the key quite bit and has exhibited a pretty good handle to create his own shot on face-up drives against this level of competition.

He doesn’t have long strides or any sort of explosiveness and doesn’t get much separation but his footwork is pretty good, as he often relies on a slow-motion spin move to get within close range. Diogu is able to maintain balance through contact and uses his body well to protect the ball in traffic. His 10.9% turnover rate is quite low in the context of his 28.8% usage rate. And despite being undersized in a league where just about every team has a seven-foot tower in front of the rim, Diogu has shown pretty great touch to score around length, finishing 61% of his 367 two-point shots.

His athleticism is still above average in this league and Diogu has leveraged it for production on the glass, collecting 14.8% of Dongguan’s misses, which ranks him fourth in the CBA. He doesn’t get much elevation out of a standing still position and can’t finish with much power in a crowd but his six-foot-10, 250-pound frame invites a lot of contact. Between his face-up drives and putback attempts, Diogu is drawing shooting fouls at a very high rate – averaging 7.2 free throws per 36 minutes, which he’s converted at a 78.8% clip.

As a result of him bringing offensive rebounding, three-point shooting and volume foul shooting to the table, Dongguan is averaging 133.6 points per 100 possessions in Diogu’s 1,033 minutes – better than the team’s 124.6 overall mark. The weak points in his game are as a screener and sealing deep position but those are getting minimized because Dongguan runs a perimeter-oriented offense that rarely goes to the post and prefers running more pick-and-rolls on lineups with Li in it.

The team also defends better with him in the lineup, but his athletic decline is a bit more evident on this end. Diogu is coached to defend the pick-and-roll by dropping back to protect the lane. He’s moved laterally very fluidly and in control but doesn’t react quickly to use his seven-foot-three wingspan to contest shots effectively, both on the perimeter and guarding on the ball. He uses his strength to contain face-up drives by opposing big man of a similar frame through contact and holding his ground on the post but can’t play above the rim as a shot blocker.

His most significant contribution is on the glass. Diogu looks and is able to box out bigger players, collecting 27.4% of opponents’ misses, which ranks him seventh in the CBA. That’s the main reason why the team allows 6.3 points per 100 possessions fewer with him at center rather than Li.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at realgm.com.

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator

Wang Zhelin Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor).

Wang Zhelin is about to conclude his third season as a pro in the Chinese league. His team regressed this season and will finish with one of the worst records in the CBA but Wang’s had yet another highly productive year. He just turned 21 last week, meaning he doesn’t have to make himself eligible for the NBA draft, but after three full seasons of pro experience, Wang might consider transferring to the United States.

Wang’s top skill is his ability to finish in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. He is a very fluid runner when sprinting up the court and diving down the lane off of setting a ball screen. He is an iffy screener, who doesn’t always set strong position or make sure he draws contact, but has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and awareness to fill the open gaps behind the defense. He’s proven able to finish strong with momentum and through contact, too.

Wang also gets touches on the post and has exhibited good ball skills. He tends to set position in the mid-post area. This gives him more space for his preferred move — a face-up drive with his left hand — but it could also be because Wang struggles to establish deep position. It’s hard to say because he doesn’t engage in much physical play. Wang is currently listed at 220 pounds by CBA Data, which means he trimmed down 23 pounds from when he was weighed at the Hoop Summit three years ago.

But, though he does not manage to back down opponents on pure strength, Wang has proven capable of maintaining balance through contact. He also gets enough separation for close range attempts through smooth footwork and patience, working his defender with fakes. He has managed to score well around the length in this level of competition and draw lots of shooting fouls but struggles to elevate from a stand-still position — not promising for his NBA future.

Nonetheless, according to RealGM, Wang has finished his 479 shots at a 60.5 percent clip and averaged 6.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes this season. He has converted just 64.7 percent of his foul shots but there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his shooting mechanics. It seems as if he rushes through the process at times.

Though it’s unlikely his post game will translate to the NBA, his ball skills might. Wang has flashed some very quality passing, scanning the floor with his back to the basket and on the move. He assisted on 6.7 percent of Fujian’s scores in his 1,276 minutes, ranking 10th in the league among centers. Wang is susceptible to getting the ball stripped on double-teams but has generally used his body well to protect his dribble. His 14.2 turnover rate is quite acceptable in the context of his 24 percent usage rate.

It’s also questionable if his offensive rebounding will translate. Wang has been very good in the Chinese league, collecting 14.2 percent of Fujian’s misses when he’s been on the floor. He looks to establish inside position and plays with good energy but can be pushed off his spot by tougher players and is unable to rebound outside of his area due to a short wingspan. Wang boxes out with some consistency but doesn’t play with a lot of toughness, which is also an issue on the post, where he struggles to hold ground.

On the other end, Wang plays with good effort. He hustles back in transition and gets in his stance when showing-and-recovering on the pick-and-roll. His most impressive feature is his lateral mobility to stay in front of smaller guards attacking him off the bounce and his size well to challenge shots at the rim. Wang lacks the closing speed and the length to effectively contest shots on the perimeter, though. He is not very aggressive leaving his man and crashing inside to protect the rim, either. Maybe he is coached to play that way but he’s blocked just 24 shots on 33 appearances.

Wang has collected 22.1 percent of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor. While it ranks him in the top 20 in the CBA, it’s rather average for a potential NBA prospect. Nevertheless, it’s relevant to notice Wang plays a lot of minutes without substitution for a seven-footer, averaging 37.5 per game this season and 40 per game in 2013-2014. It’s not uncommon to see him get fatigued in the fourth quarter of games, and that can affect the energy with which he plays.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

 

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer

Li Muhao Scouting Report

After a promising campaign last season (statistically speaking), Li Muhao appears to have stagnated in his fourth year as a pro.

Dongguan seems to think that way, at least. His minutes are far down in comparison to last season and his role is very limited. Li’s now in his age-23 season and one would expect the team to start expanding what’s asked of him. But Ike Diogu’s presence has limited his playing time to just 495 minutes on 33 appearances. Dongguan scores far more efficiently with Diogu and the threat of his three-point shot at center. Li will often start games, play a six-seven minute shift and then not sub in again until late in the third quarter or early in the fourth. He’s become simply a minutes-eater for them.

Dongguan relies heavily on the three-point shot, with over a third of its total attempts coming from beyond the arc. Li rarely gets touches on the post and is asked mostly to screen and roll when he’s out there. It is likely Dongguan doesn’t give him the ball much because Li simply hasn’t developed his ball skills (his 18.2% turnover rate is sky high in the context of his 15.6% usage rate) but it’s hard to say that for sure. His post game has in fact looked mechanical in the past but it was at least a resource for drawing shooting fouls at a decent rate, which is no longer the case. And it appears he’s also no longer encouraged to take that catch-and-shoot mid-range jump-shot.

Those plays in which he sets a ball-screen tend to turn into long bombs by Bobby Brown, with Li mostly diving down the lane looking for potential offensive rebounds. He doesn’t play with much energy tracking these misses off the rim or toughness looking to establish inside position under the glass, though. Li’s collected 12.3% of Dongguan’s misses when he’s been on the floor, an average mark, more often relying on his long arms to secure deflections.

When he’s gotten the ball sneaking behind the defense, Li’s shown good hands to catch the ball on the move and touch to finish at rim level, converting his 119 shots at a 59.6% clip. But though almost a third of his field goals have been dunks, he doesn’t play above the rim as a target for lobs and doesn’t elevate with much power out of a standing still position. Nonetheless, Li looks better conditioned, more nimble and less sluggish than he did in the summer, making these rim-runs more fluidly. He’s now listed at 220 pounds – 18 pounds lighter than what he was listed at the Stankovic Cup.

On the other end, Li is not the positive presence his size suggests he should be. He can bend his knees to get on a stance guarding the pick-and-roll by dropping back to prioritize rim protection, which is not a small deal for someone his size. Li has also shown pretty decent lateral mobility and has the length to contest mid-range shots effectively.

But he’s not very comfortable defending in space, needing to give a cushion to big men that draw him outside the lane, even if that player has the range to hit a shot from there. And he’s hopeless if a smaller player has a shot at running around him. Li can be aggressive leaving his man to rotate to the front of the rim and do so with some quickness but can’t play above the basket as a constant shot blocking threat, denying just 19 shots all season.

But the real big issue is his rebounding. Li does look to box out with some consistency but can’t elevate off the ground in a pinch to track the ball off the rim. He will also, a lot of times, jump with just one arm extended. As a result, Li’s collected just 13.2% of opponents’ misses when he’s on the floor, a mark that ranks fifth worst in the league among true centers. With Diogu protecting the glass a lot better, Dongguan is allowing fewer points on a per-possession basis without Li on the floor.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at basketball.realgm.com and sina.com

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator, Stretch Big

Yi Jianlian Scouting Report

Yi Jianlian is either still 27 years old or already 30, depending on which website you look for the info. Nonetheless, most of his game is still reliant on the athletic ability he possesses in his chiseled seven-feet, 238-pound frame. The most dominant Chinese player of his Era is once again leading the league in scoring among natives, while impressively averaging 1.62 points per shot on 574 attempts, and Guangdong has won 33 of its 35 games under his leadership.

He is a fluid runner sprinting up the court in transition and cutting to the front of the rim after setting a down screen in the half-court. Yi doesn’t play above the rim as a target for lobs very often but has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and can finish strong with momentum, converting his 549 two-point shots at a 60.2% clip this season. He doesn’t play with much energy under the glass, not actively fighting for inside position often, but still manages to make an impact through his jumping ability and seven-foot-three wingspan, collecting 10.8% of Guangdong’s misses.

He has a quickness-edge over most of his competition and uses it well on the post, on sudden turnaround moves looking to finish strong at the rim, proving able to elevate off the ground with power in a pinch. On face-up drives from the high post or the perimeter, Yi actually doesn’t have long strides and dribbles too high in traffic but manages to protect possession by using his body well and maintains balance through contact to get to the rim or draw shooting fouls. He’s averaged a jaw-dropping 9.4 free throws per 36 minutes this season and converted them at a 74.5% clip. His 9.7% turnover rate is quite low in the context of his sky high 29.1% usage rate.

Part of that is because Yi does not attempt to create many shots for others. He has flashed some appealing passing instincts scanning the court with his back to the basket and on the move off the bounce. But despite this and playing with several shooters around him, Yi has assisted on just 6.7% of Guangdong’s scores.

His ball skills are mostly on display in his outside shooting. Yi has only taken three-point shots sporadically since his return to China, averaging less than one a game over the last three seasons. But he does take quite a few long-twos, sometimes from three-point range but with one or both of his feet on the line. Yi doesn’t elevate much off the ground and doesn’t have a particularly quick release but elevates with pretty good balance and extends himself fully, which gives him a high release point tough to contest effectively. He’s hit 11 of the 25 three-point shots he’s taken this season.

On the other end, Yi is very selective with his effort. He does get on his stance guarding the pick-and-roll by showing-and-recovering but will at times look disengaged off the ball. Yi has great length to contest perimeter shots effectively but won’t always hustle on closeouts. He’s not an effective interior protector with smaller guards running at him but has proven able to play above the rim as a shot blocker rotating off the weak-side. Yet, his 40 blocks on 34 appearances aren’t particularly impressive.

He doesn’t look to box out diligently, more often relying on his athleticism to chase the ball off the rim quicker than the opposition. His 22.8% defensive rebounding rate is a top 20 mark, but not quite the dominance you’d expect from an NBA-caliber athlete. Yet, through all of these frustrations, Yi is very effective playing the passing lanes with his long arms. He’s averaged almost two steals per game, which help explain why his individual defensive rating of 103.3 ranks second in the league.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at realgm.com.

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Stretch Big

Chris Daniels Scouting Report

As the Chinese league postseason approaches, Guangdong Southern has signed Jeff Adrien to strengthen what already is the team that sits atop the standings. The man he replaces is Chris Daniels, who was actually having one of the most productive seasons in the league.

Daniels is an intriguing player due to his combination of size and ball skills. He’s a seven-footer who has developed a pretty good feel for the game, flashing excellent passing instincts facing the defense and handling the ball well enough that the team utilized him to initiate offense from the high post at times. Daniels assisted on 10% of Guangdong’s scores in his 845 minutes, which ranked him sixth in assist rate among centers – according to realgm.com.

Guangdong likes posting up its big wings, and Daniels helped that happen by spacing the defense all the way to the three-point line and opening up the lane. He doesn’t get much elevation off the ground, doesn’t have a particularly quick release and will at times extend his right leg rather than elevate in balance but has solid enough mechanics that he’s a very capable open shot shooter, hitting 41.6% of his 48 three-point attempts this season.

Daniels has also displayed the ability to attack closeouts, handling the ball comfortably when forced to drive off the dribble and finishing strong at the rim with momentum. He dribbles the ball too high in traffic, though, and is susceptible to getting it stripped. His 18.4% turnover rate is sky high in the context of his 19.8% usage rate.

He permitted better athletes to successfully front him and deny him the ball in the post, so mostly got it below the foul line when the opponent guarded Yi Jianlian with its strongest big man and matched up Daniels on a smaller or less athletic type. In such circumstances, he used the strength in his 265-pound frame to back them down for a short hook within close range or his athletic ability to create separation through a two-step, running jump-hook. Daniels exhibited great touch in these finishes, converting 66% of his 212 two-point shots.

Guangdong doesn’t run all that many pick-and-rolls, and when they did, Daniels was not much of an option as a finisher. He was mostly a slip screener, perhaps because he was coached to do so, but even in those occurrences, Daniels didn’t dive down the lane with much speed and didn’t carry much gravitational pull. He has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and touch to finish around length but does not play above the rim as a target for lobs.

In part because of his role but also because he’s not much of an energy guy at this point of his career (perhaps why Guangdong is replacing him with Adrien), Daniels collected just 10.5% of Guangdong’s misses when he was on the floor, which is an average mark, and struggled finishing with power out of a standing still position.

On the other end, Daniels was a solid contributor as well. He held his ground on the post and looked to box out diligently, collecting 26.5% of opponents’ misses, which ranked him eighth in the league. His mobility was an asset when he guarded the pick-and-roll flat and he proved able to keep pace with smaller players running at him, managing to challenge shots at the rim.

Daniels is unable to play above the rim as a shot blocker, though, and proved to be very foul prone, as he is susceptible to getting fooled by shot-fakes and leaving himself vulnerable for the opponent to seek contact. He averaged 6.1 personal fouls per 48 minutes, which limited his playing time to just 25.6 minutes per game. Nonetheless, Daniels benefited from playing alongside a pretty good collection of athletes and his individual 105.2 defensive rating ranked fourth in the league.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Chinese 7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator

Han Dejun Scouting Report

Liaoning ranks second in the Chinese league in wins at the moment, having won 30 of its 35 games. Lester Hudson’s volume shot making has been the driving force for such a successful campaign but Han Dejun’s interior scoring has also played a role. The “Chinese Shaq” is having a very efficient season, averaging 1.76 points per shot on 294 attempts – according to realgm.com. In his 961 minutes, Liaoning is averaging 123 points per 100 possessions.

Han does most of his work out of the post. He uses the strength in his seven-foot-one, 299-pound frame to establish deep position and back opponents down to neutralize a potential block attempt. Often managing to get separation for his right-handed hook within close range, Han has good touch on his finishes, converting 63% of his shots.

Due to the physical nature of his style of play, he’s also managed to draw shooting fouls in volume and has averaged 7.1 free throws per 36 minutes, converting 73.6% of them. That is not to say Han is a black hole, though. In fact, his court vision scanning the floor with his back to the basket is quite impressive, as he’s proven able to identify teammates sliding to the rim behind the defense or rotating to an open spot around the perimeter.

More athletic types give him a lot of trouble, though, as Han struggles to finish and pass around length due to his limited athleticism. His 17.4% turnover rate is quite high in the context of his 21.1% usage rate. His lack of quickness and elevation keep him from being a good option out of the pick-and-roll and making an impact on the offensive glass. He also rarely even looks at the rim when he catches the ball above the foul line.

Han is a good screener whose big frame makes it a chore for on-ball defenders to navigate his picks and has soft hands to catch the ball on the move but can’t dive down the lane with much speed or finish strong in traffic. He’s able to establish inside position below the basket but can’t reach the ball at a high point for putbacks or track the ball off the rim quickly enough to rebound outside of his area. Whatever catch-and-score opportunities he gets come from sneaking behind the defense on the baseline and getting a dump-off from Ailun Guo or Lester Hudson out of dribble penetration.

Han has looked a bit more nimble within short range on the other end, exhibiting some friskiness guarding the pick-and-roll flat and lateral mobility to stay in front of less athletic big men when they tried taking him off the bounce. But he does not play above the rim as shot blocker and is not suited to defend in space under any circumstance, lacking the feet agility to hedge-and-recover on the pick-and-roll and closing speed to contest shots outside the lane.

His general size clogging the lane is nonetheless effective and Liaoning is preventing scoring more successfully on a per-possession basis with him on the court. His big rebounding area is more of a factor on the defensive glass, as he looks to boxout diligently and has collected 22.8% of opponents’ misses, which ranks him in the top 20. An issue is that Han is quite the target for opponents to seek contact and as a result, his minutes need to be managed. He’s averaging 5.3 fouls per 48 minutes, which is limiting him to just 27.5 minutes per game this season.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer

Zhou Qi Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)

As I profiled in the summer, Zhou Qi has become sort of a legendary prospect due to his appearances in junior national tournaments over the last couple of years. But the 18-year-old is already starting to transform all that future promise into present performance as his first season as a pro in the Chinese league has been a very productive one. Xinjiang is contending for a postseason berth and Zhou has been part of the reason why.

His team has Andray Blatche and Sebastian Telfair in it, and used to have Jordan Crawford, so possessions have been a scarce resource. Zhou rarely ever gets touches in the post, in part because opponents can easily front him and deny the ball from being entered due to his lack of strength. His frame hasn’t improved much from the summer, as he remains a very skinny type in the context of his seven-foot-one height. He also barely looks at the rim when he touches the ball outside the lane.

The vast majority of his scoring has come as a finisher out of the pick-and-roll and off of putbacks. Zhou has improved as a screener, extending his legs wide to set position. He moves very fluidly diving down the lane, has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and plays above the rim as a target for lobs. He’s unable to finish through contact and lacks strength to elevate with power to finish strong around length with consistency. Even so, Zhou has finished his 215 two-point shots at a 72 percent clip, according to RealGM.

His lack of strength also keeps him from establishing inside position under the glass but his length and jumping ability help him reach the ball at a higher point than the average competition and rebound outside of his area as well, collecting 10 percent of Xinjiang’s misses. As such a constant threat around the goal, he’s drawing lots of shooting fouls, averaging 5.1 free throws per 36 minutes and converting them at a 73.2 percent clip, which is unusual for a player his height.

The combination of a .717 true shooting percentage and volume offensive rebounding has resulted in Xinjiang averaging 139 points per 100 possessions with Zhou on the floor, the fourth highest offensive rating among players in the Chinese league.

He also impacts the game through his length and jumping ability on the other end. Zhou has good quickness rotating to the front of the basket in help-defense and is able to play above the rim both as a shot blocker and by using verticality to alter opponents’ balance through body contact. He’s blocked 10.5 percent of opponents’ attempts in his 806 minutes, a mark that leads the league.

Zhou is coached to guard the pick-and-roll by dropping back, which is probably what’s best suited for him. He has shown decent lateral mobility and isn’t slow footed by any means but is simply not built to defend in space — he doesn’t bend his knees much and gets run around easily by smaller players. Even by playing with a cushion, Zhou manages to contest mid-range shots rather effectively due to his length and has flashed good closing speed by proving able to block three-point shots.

He looks to boxout with some consistency but does not get very physical (an issue in post defense as well), at times locking arms with the opponent rather than putting his body on him. Blatche is a prolific rebounder and cuts his opportunities some, but his 18 percent defensive rebounding rate is nonetheless a bit underwhelming. It’s only an average mark, yet good enough that combined with his volume shot blocking, Zhou’s individual 107.1 defensive rating ranks seventh. With an improvement in that area, he’ll soon become the most impactful defender in the league.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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