Ding Yanyuhang played all 7 years of his pro career for Shandong in the Chinese Basketball Association. While he was a role player in his rookie year of 2011-12, he took up expanded minutes in the following season. His efficiency also improved drastically while nearly doubling his volume, especially as he shot a career best 38% from 3 that year on 4.3 attempts. That year was by far the best for Shandong(at the time still the Shandong Gold Lions), as Ding and company ran all the way to the finals, led by Eugene “Pooh” Jeter with 25 PPG, and Zaid Abbas, a big double double machine averaging 18 and 11, but were thereby swept 4-0 by Guangdong.
Alas, he would never shoot above 35% again for the rest of his career, as his role expanded to the Lions wing scorer, which cratered his efficiency from 3 at first, but not yet overall. Meanwhile, the team failed to make the playoffs, as Ding had to fill in the hole left by the departure of Abbas to Tianjin. In 2014-15, Ding returned to the role of 2012-13, but the team simply failed to find success despite finding an arguably better replacement for Abbas in Earl Clark, and Ding couldn’t find his younger self in a similar small role, shooting 30% from 3. However, the following year was truly a turn for the worse, as his minutes were slashed to his lowest since his rookie season, and his efficiency sunk to the lows of 26% from 3 and 40.6% from the field. Furthermore, he played a career low 26 games that year, so perhaps this down year was caused by an injury of some sort(information from the CBA is rather….limited).
The last 2 years saw his meteoric rise to CBA Domestic MVP, with an expanded usage to over 28%, starting all of the 39 games in 2016-17 and the 45 games of 2017-18 that he played, while also playing 38 MPG. His efficiency also increased from 44.4% from the field on 18 attempts and 32.6% from 3 on 6.4 attempts to 47% from the field on 19 attempts and 34.5% from 3 on 8.5 attempts. Ding was first introduced to Mavs fans in the 2017 summer league, where he showed some interesting flashes, but wasn’t all that efficient. This year, he didn’t play in Summer League due to knee soreness, along with commitments to the national team. Now he’ll get his shot in training camp for the Mavericks.
Finishing- Ding’s craft at the basket catches your attention, despite the fact that his athleticism doesn’t pop in particular. Although I’m sure he is quite capable of dunking, I didn’t see any particular trait from him that would allow Ding to finish over or through people, but he has shown a knack to finish around people, and even make 2nd efforts after initial misses. Also Ding is prone to drawing fouls at the rim, but it is dubious how many of these calls he would receive in an NBA setting.
Passing- Ding’s decision making is rather aggressive at times, but when he succeeds, it pays off. He will often display moments that catch your eye, but Yanyuhang understands the basics as well, like how to hit his man in stride on a bounce pass, or find the open man. I certainly would not run him in any secondary pick and rolls as his aggressive decision making and inability to make those sorts of higher level reads turn me away.
Shot Creation- Despite the fact that Ding hasn’t ever shot particularly well, he has been able to get himself open looks using spin moves, the triple threat, straight line drives, taking advantage of his first step against less agile CBA defenders and then pulling up in space. However, even in the CBA, there were moments where he simply couldn’t create separation, even in closeouts. If he ever does remain in the NBA for a significant amount of time, that is where he will need to apply his abilities.
Keep in mind, Ding shot rather poorly in this game, compared to his averages. Most of these misses were high points, except for some of the aggressive decision making and the failure to create separation. The plentiful lows, however, will be put in full display for the deep dive, coming soon. One quick mention: his effort/focus levels on the other end are just frustrating. In the 2nd clip, he cannot be seen. That is because he is on the other end of the floor, still thinking they will just score and then he can just skip playing defense.
While Ding was a 2017 summer league fan favorite, his skill set doesn’t seem adaptable to a smaller role in the NBA, especially considering his struggles the last time he returned to a smaller role in the CBA. I just can’t envision a role for a player like him, especially on the Mavericks, who need players capable on both ends of the floor to help right now or younger prospects for the future. Ding is neither of these things, as he is already soon to turn 25. Sure, he could improve somewhat. Perhaps he can retune his jumper and find more success in that department. On top of that, his lack of focus and effort on the defensive end worries me greatly. In the best case scenario, he’s a spot wing who occasionally gets really hot from the field, and produces some fancy highlights. Most likely, he returns back to China, as I couldn’t see him going to the G League for a $50,000 bonus(if that) when he earns millions back home and is a superstar in the CBA, unless he wants to leave China desperately for some unrevealed non-basketball reasons. This move is most likely just to try to grow the Mavs connection to the Chinese market after inviting Ding to summer league last year and renaming the Chinese name of the Mavericks, as well as the Mavs playing two games in China this pre-season. As for Ding, he gets an opportunity to promote himself in the NBA and take his best shot at the league as he enters his prime. As far as I can tell, this is a win-win scenario for both parties, but doesn’t affect the on court product at the American Airlines Center for this upcoming season.