As reported by Niubball, the Shanghai Sharks big man, Zhang Zhaoxu will remain a resident of Shanghai for the foreseeable future after inking a new deal with the team. Despite talk of Beijing and Xinjiang coming in for the 7″3 center, the Sharks front office held their nerve and will keep their young big man at the Yuanshen for the foreseeable future.
In some ways, Shanghai had no choice but to keep the former Cal center given that on his day, Zhang is among the best Chinese centers in the CBA. However, it’s also prudent to note that the Sharks really had no other options to replace him with and couldn’t afford the moral-sapping loss of their best big man after a disappointing 10-22 season. Although it is difficult to pinpoint his exact salary, it has been widely reported that Zhang now becomes the Sharks’ highest paid player, getting even more money than Shanghai legend, Liu Wei.
Zhang will turn twenty-six midway at the start of the forthcoming CBA season in November and it is fair to say that there is still a lot of room for improvement in the Shandong native’s game. At a reported game weight of 225lbs, Zhang could do with adding some muscle to his frame and he needs to be far more aggressive and decisive with his finishing at the rim.
After Liu, Zhang is probably the most well-known Chinese member of the Sharks roster and very soon, Liu’s inevitable retirement is going to mean even more responsibility. Having got the big extension, it is now critical that Zhang steps up to this challenge and emerges as a more consistent big man like the one Sharks fans saw finish last season so strongly. He was the second best shot blocker in the league in 2012/13, averaging 2.9bpg and at times his defensive presence was the deciding factor in games.
Although at times inconsistent and maddening, Zhang was still clearly talented enough for Xinjiang to offer him an eye-watering yearly salary of eight-million RMB. The Sharks have kept him in Shanghai but now need to hope he’s worth the effort.
Update: Announcing the deal, Sharks’ head coach Wang Qun amazingly suggested that Zhang could be Shanghai’s own Pau Gasol which is somewhat wishful but hey, dream big, coach…