#FIBAAsia2015: The top five FIBA Asia centers right now
Less than two months remain before the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship in Changsha, China. As of this writing, most of the perceived title contenders have already begun training for the all-important competition that will reward just one country with an outright berth in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
As a run-up to that tournament, I will be posting a series of articles focusing on key players with whom we need to be familiar. These range from the newcomers, the breakout ballers, the tried-and-tested veterans, the local stars, the naturalized players and the top cagers per position.
In the previous post in this series, we looked at the top five Asia Power Forwards — some of the most talented players in the continent.
In this post, we’ll look at some of the most dominant players in Asia. These are the guys who can potentially take over every game given their sheer size and skill-set. There used to be a time when the paint was ruled almost exclusively by the hulking Chinese, but in this day and age, big men from all over the continent have come forth to challenge the dominance of the Walking Great Wall.
Let’s look at the top five Centers in FIBA Asia.
*These rankings are based solely on my observations and analyses. I’ve only included those who have played in the 2014 FIBA World Cup or at least one of the last three major continental tournaments (2013 FIBA Asia Championship, 2014 FIBA Asia Cup, and 2014 Asian Games) or are certainly playing in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship.
Hamed Haddadi – Iran, 30 years old, 7’2
Current club & stats: Mahram Tehran (Superleague): 18.3ppg, 9.9rpg, 1.3bpg, 55.0 FG%
2014 FIBA World Cup: 18.8ppg, 11.4rpg, 1.2bpg, 1.2spg, 51.5 FG%
- Haddadi has long been Asia’s most imposing center since Iran won its first continental title in 2007. Team Melli has pocketed the crown in two of the last three FIBA Asia Championship, and it comes as no surprise that Haddadi has played a huge part in the Middle Eastern powerhouse’s success. He had a forgettable stint in the NBA, but he has been nearly unstoppable elsewhere, bringing his own brand of intimidation and efficiency to the CBA and his own native IBF Superleague. At 30, age may begin catching up with him, though, which means the door is left ajar for aspiring young centers to challenge his throne.
Wang Zhelin – China, 21 years old, 7’1
Current club & stats: Fujian Sturgeons (CBA): 21.6ppg, 11.5rpg, 1.7apg, 60.7 FG%
2013 FIBA Asia Championship: 10.2ppg, 6.0rpg, 62.5 FG%
- With old reliable Wang Zhizhi finally calling it a career, the onus is on another Wang — Wang Zhelin — to inherit his mantle as China’s best center in the foreseeable future (unless another young slotman, Zhou Qi, can supplant him, though). Zhelin dominated in the CBA this past season for his hometown of Fujian, and he has steadily been improving in international play. He will surely see more minutes in the 2015 FIBA Asia Championship, and China will look for him to produce even more than he did two years ago.
Lee Jong-Hyun – Korea, 21 years old, 6’9
Current team & stats: Korea University (Korean University League): 11.9ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.4bpg
2014 FIBA World Cup: 6.8ppg, 3.4rpg, 2.6bpg, 54.5 FG%
- Lee is no double-double machine like Haddadi or Wang, but he is maybe the best rim protector in all of Asia. I mean, this kid, at just 20 years old then, led the ENTIRE 2014 WORLD CUP in blocks per game! That’s pretty insane. He continued in the 2014 Asian Games, too, swatting nearly 2 shots per game as Korea went on to win gold. For the record, his tournament-high was 5 blocks against Kazakhstan… in 21 minutes!!! This kid isn’t the tallest, the longest, or the highest leaper. He just has great defensive instinct and timing.
Quincy Davis – Taiwan, 32 years old, 6’9
Current club & stats: Pure Youth Construction (SBL): 14.7ppg, 13.4rpg, 2.0apg, 2.3bpg, 56.9 FG%
2014 FIBA Asia Cup: 12.2ppg, 11.5rpg, 1.2apg, 72.1 FG%
- Davis was the biggest reason Taiwan was able to finish in the top four of the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, and he will remain a huge factor for them this year. Despite sustaining an injury in the previous SBL season, Davis seems fit and ready to compete again for the Taiwanese, who are looking to improve even more with an intact core. Davis won’t wow anyone with his scoring or his range, but he can rebound and defend with the best of ‘em. With Taiwan’s main stars in their early 30s, this may just be their generation’s swan song, and they will certainly rely heavily on Davis to ensure they put on a great show.
Andray Blatche – Philippines, 28 years old, 6’11
Current club & stats: Xinjiang Flying Tigers (CBA): 31.1ppg, 14.6rpg, 5.1apg, 2.8spg, 2.1 triples per game, 37.2 3pt%, 55.8 FG%
2014 FIBA World Cup: 21.2ppg, 13.8rpg, 44.2 FG%
- Blatche was a dominant force both in the 2014 World Cup and in the 2014-2015 CBA season. And though both his teams, the Philippines and the Xinjiang Flying Tigers, failed to advance to the second round of their respective tournaments, Blatche was still able to stamp his class on the competition. He has put on some weight since he last donned a basketball kit, but he is still projected to perhaps be the best overall player in Changsha later this year. With is rare-as-hell combination of size, mobility, and shooting, Blatche should make Gilas Pilipinas a serious threat in every game.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.