Uh-oh. Having battled their fair share of average to very good teams, now its time for Shanghai to face-off against arguably the league’s premier outfit over the last decade, Guangdong Tigers.
Having been in every CBA final since the 2003-2004 season and winning seven championships along the way, the Tigers have a sustained legacy of success and a big part of this consistency has come through its policy of bringing players up through its junior teams. Indeed, their youth team has won a whopping eleven championships at the junior level, creating a factory line of talent, most notably Washington Wizards swingman, Yi Jianlian. Wang Shipeng, Chen Jianghua, Su Wei, Zhou Peng and Zhu Fangyu are other notable graduates from the Tigers youth system, all of whom are still regulars for Guangdong.
In addition to this, the reigning champions have been savvy recruiters in free agency, adding James Singleton, who last year played for Xinjiang, including against Guangdong in the 2010-2011 CBA finals. Alongside the experienced forward is Aaron Brooks, a former team mate of Mike Harris when both were playing at the Houston Rockets.
All of this does not bode well for the Sharks, even after Yi’s return to a post-lockout NBA. Singleton has got himself a couple of big hauls but the Tigers have a veritable warehouse of attacking options and the Sharks will need to find their defensive knowhow again if they are to deal with the multi pronged offense staring at them from the other side of the court.
There are of course chinks in the armour; Beijing Ducks and Qingdao Eagles have already claimed victories against them, although both sides had to put up over a hundred points in the game to do it. Whether the Sharks are ready to throw themselves into another shoot-out following the energy sapping clash with Liaoning remains to be seen but it will certainly take something special if the Sharks can improve to beat a team aiming to win a fifth successive title on the road.