Ding Yanyuhang most definitely had a career year last year, carrying a net rating of 6.5(121.7, 115.2) in CBA competition, and a career-high 59.6% true shooting %. Ding’s overall career is much more of a roller coaster, with moments of improving efficiency followed by abhorrent inefficiency, with multiple years in the negative, and turnover percentages above assist percentages. The only thing that worries me is that Ding’s effectiveness seems to have increased as his usage increases, inciting concerns over whether or not he can adapt to a smaller role in the NBA. Sure, he was great in 2013-14, but even then he was taking 13 shots a game. This simply isn’t happening in the NBA. The only year that provides some hope for Ding in a smaller role is 2012-13, which is 5 seasons before this recent one, and the last time he returned to a similar role in 2014-15 he couldn’t replicate those shooting numbers. Finally, his defense did regress, perhaps because he was focusing solely on his offense.
Ding made key improvements in his decision making, finally having fewer turnovers than assists in his new role. The flashes certainly were well put together on tape, and he seems to have put those flashes into better use this past season. Moving on to Ding’s rebounding, while the double-digit percentages are somewhat eye-catching, I have a lot more concerns about how those numbers would translate to an NBA setting where the difference compared to the CBA is much greater than top-tier European national leagues, even though the difference between those higher level competitions and the NBA is still quite obvious.
What’s remarkable is how much of Ding’s efficiency solely comes from 2’s, shooting 10 a game at 57.5%. Meanwhile, his 3’s did still improve to 34.5% on 8.5 attempts. While I would hope that could mean his three-point shooting could improve if he didn’t have to take so many shots, his statistical history doesn’t prove that outside of the one outlier year in 2012-13.
Moving on to how these numbers translate on the court, I have watched exactly 1 game from Ding in CBA play, from 2016-17. While I know he made significant statistical improvements this past season, his underlying game still didn’t change radically. This was the only CBA game I could find from him. There were 2 FIBA WC Asian qualifier games, but 1) one of them was another bad game against lowly Hong Kong, shooting an abysmal 2 of 7 from 3, and 2) his 30 point scoring outburst against Korea mostly relied on shots at the rim, where he converted tons of layups that he missed in the CBA game, and free throws. He did shoot 4/6 from 3, but his form didn’t exactly look changed, more like he just took more catch and shoot shots which went in this time around. Also, he took advantage of a mismatch he received against 5-11 Hoon Heo a handful of times, and the center he played against was a mere 6-6, allowing Ding to often finish over him. Not to mention, going back to his overall career, he just has loads of games where he gets firing hot and other games icy cold. Nonetheless, let’s take a look at his shooting sample from that night just for reference.
With that being said, let’s get into this film!
Ding’s most common areas of impact are on the ball. There is rarely a possession with him on the floor where he isn’t making at least one dribble in attempts to break down the defense. However, the most obvious area of impact for him is on the offensive glass. While his effort in the paint can be a bit inconsistent and he often doesn’t even bother crashing the boards, when he sets his mind to it, he definitely provides a greater impact in CBA play. However, his inconsistent effort on crashing and his boxouts will be attacked in an NBA context.
Ding truly shined at the rim, displaying a variety of acrobatic layups that catch the eye. He also can usually finish through CBA contact, but he will be tested against NBA physicality in that regard, and I haven’t seen Ding absolutely overpower an opponent physically. On misses, Ding looks to make the 2nd effort to get another shot up as well. In addition, he consistently draws fouls at the basket, but the mysteries of how these calls will translate to NBA officiating mean I wouldn’t value it too much.
Ding often took shots off the dribble, creating excellent looks with a variety of spins and triple threat moves. His crossover doesn’t usually create much separation, however. Furthermore, on closeout drives, it is often a matter of whether or not he can get past his opponent with his first step. In the CBA, I’d probably call it dynamic, but in the NBA, it’s at best above average. Even against CBA defenders, he wouldn’t be able to create separation or he’d lose control of his handle.
Ding’s ability to create open looks remains from range, but he has difficulties converting consistently. For one thing, the ball seems level with the top of his forehead(if you want to see, you can slow the speed up to ¼ by right-clicking on the video), instead of being entirely above his head. Ding does follow through well, allowing for enough arc to at least remain relatively close on each of his attempts, but the low release point makes his shots more vulnerable to contests and can mean an arc that would normally be more successful with an ideal release point just isn’t as successful. It is nice, however, to see him move to the ball in order to be more available in catch and shoot opportunities.
Finally, Ding’s passing ability is up there in the context of a pure wing, with fancy passes either in the air or over the shoulder, the occasional no look, and consistent ability to hit players in stride or in their shooting pockets, outside of passes which are forced by bad decision making. On occasions, he could run advantageous pick and rolls in a bench context, but I wouldn’t want him running secondary pick and rolls against quality defenses and starters, just because sometimes he is far too aggressive and he doesn’t make advanced reads, rather he makes the basic reads and executes them consistently.
This is the side of the floor where everything just falls apart for Ding. For starters, he consistently is picked on off of the ball, as he constantly falls asleep defending off the ball. Other times, he will switch against the wishes of his teammates, leaving his man wide open.
On the ball, he often just makes the wrong read, either misreading the direction of a drive, going under the screen against shooters in the pick and roll, crowding the ball instead of covering his own man, have unnecessary reach in fouls, and more moments where he’s just caught ball watching again.
Furthermore, there are other moments where Ding simply cannot be bothered. He just skips contesting his man on the shot, and even situations where he doesn’t bother to recover after his mistakes.
When Ding is fully engaged, he is capable of holding his own in the CBA. His closeouts are at least somewhat effective as they can alter opponent’s shots, he even aggressively picks up his man or holds him off the ball to prevent movement. In these situations, he also has to at least get broken down by a series of crossovers and if he gets beat he will at least make a full attempt to recover.
I understand the weight Ding had to carry offensively, but he takes energy conservation to infamous levels often. These 3 moments, in particular, were just the most frustrating. The fact that he doesn’t even bother to get back on D, or when he just doesn’t even bother going for the wide open man that he left in the first place to go for a rebound, even though another teammate was in the paint, is really tough to ignore. I pray he actually shows us some more consistency for the better in that regard.
At the end of the day, Ding was probably only signed here to increase the Mavs sales to China, especially as they are playing two pre-season games there. Also, it will only help Tony Ronzone’s international scouting department’s presence in Asia. On Ding’s side, he gets an opportunity to receive insight from NBA coaching and play against some higher level competition. Most likely, Ding will return to China to live out his life of CBA Domestic MVP, earn money from his endorsements, and continue to earn millions of dollars. I couldn’t imagine a scenario where he elects to go to the G League. Finally, it would be unthinkable for the Mavericks to sign Ding to a two-way spot(which his exhibit 10 contract allows) when both of their two-way players are recent signees, with one being a draft selection. In the theoretical event that he makes an NBA roster, he would most likely receive spot minutes as a wing who can attack closeouts and be able to find cutters from his drives or even kick out to the 3 point line. When his shot is falling, he provides much more value; however, his shot isn’t the most reliable. At the rack, he can finish through average contact and convert some acrobatic finishes, perhaps drawing a foul more than average, where he will convert at an acceptable rate. Also, when his motor runs hot, expect efforts to crash the boards and box out, opening up potential value from earning another possession. Defensively, he can hold his own when his effort is up to par, but those moments are hard to come by. It would take a change in mindset in order for these moments to occur more regularly. Regardless, Ding still falls asleep on defense as he doesn’t know when to rotate, will not be able to diagnose ball handlers, and will often get caught ball watching. Ultimately, Ding Yanyuhang is just stopping by stateside for a month and a half, and will soon return to his homeland where he is beloved and rich. Either way, Ding is sure to at least an entertaining presence in the upcoming 2018 Dallas Mavericks pre-season.