Ding Yanyuhang photo c/o FIBA.com (used with permission)
Not many people outside of Asia have heard of Ding Yanyuhang, but he's a big deal in China. The 6’7” guard-forward is just 23-years-old, but he has already been named Most Valuable Player in the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). That happened this past 2016-2017 season as Ding averaged 24.6 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game for the Shandong Golden Stars. He also hit 2.1 triples per outing, stretching opposing defenses and regularly giving foes a ton of headaches.
Like most Chinese prodigies, Ding first played for Shandong back in 2011 when he was just 18-years-old, so he's not exactly a greenhorn. He has had extensive experience playing against bigger and older cagers, while also having seen action for the Chinese national team on a few occasions. Ding first played for the national youth team in the 2009 FIBA Asia U16 Championship, averaging a modest 4.6 points per game. He missed the 2010 FIBA U17 World Championship, but returned to the international stage in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, where he was instrumental in helping the Chinese reclaim the Asian crown after beating the Philippines in the Final, 78-67.
Ding hasn't wowed international audiences yet, mainly because he has always taken a backseat to guys like Yi Jianlian, Guo Ailun, and Zhou Qi, but after his MVP season in the CBA, many expect Ding to take on a bigger role for China, especially since he is the biggest name on their "Red" roster, which will see action in all international tournaments this year.
Enter the Mavericks and their Summer League offer, as reported by the Dallas Morning News. This is an apparent stab by Dallas owner Mark Cuban to once again tap the rich Asian basketball market, and inviting the MVP of the continent's most competitive pro league seems a no-brainer. No less than NBA Commissioner Adam Silver would welcome this development, especially after noting how there are no bona fide Chinese players currently in the Association.
“It frustrates me that there are no Chinese players in the NBA right now,” he told reporters prior to Game One of the 2017 NBA Finals. “There’s probably more basketball being played in China than anywhere else in the world. And more NBA basketball is being watched in China than anywhere else in the world."
This should pave the way for someone like Ding to have a clear shot at making a roster spot, and I wouldn't be shocked in the least if Ding indeed shows up for Dallas's Summer League squad, their training camp, and maybe even a handful of actual games in the regular season. The Chinese market is that lucrative, and Ding, to be quite honest, is good enough to deserve such an opportunity.
He has great size for his position and possesses the skill-set to potentially be a solid contributor for the Mavs. Does he have Yao Ming-star player potential? Eh, maybe not. But is he surely better than, say, Sun Yue, who played for the Lakers? For sure.
Things cannot be formalized until July 1, though, so Cuban himself has not made any official comment.
Still, the buzz is palpable, and I, for one, would love to see Ding on the NBA floor. He won't get you off your seat with his handles or leaping ability, but he is smart enough and steady enough to perhaps earn a roster spot for someone as cerebral as Rick Carlisle and a team like Dallas, which has never really shied away from taking risks.
The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or ABS-CBN Sports.