Guangsha has been a stable playoff team in the past years, not missing the top eight since 2007. Unfortunately, with only one series won and a plethora of 0-3 losses, the squad hailing from Hangzhou seems stuck in no man’s land. Enter Jeremy Pargo, the youngest of the Pargo brothers (Jannero is currently playing for the Charlotte Hornets whilst Jeremy himself has had a few NBA stints) and a Euroleague pure scorer. Will he be the one to carry the Lions out of (high-level) mediocrity?
First and foremost: it’s no use judging a player without understanding the environment he’s supposed to thrive in. What kind of team is Guangsha and how can Pargo impact its identity?
1 – Versatility is the name of the game.
Guangsha has a load of swingmen, with five rotational players between 6’4″ and 6’6″. Some of them pose similar threats to their opponents, as generally spot-up shooting – and the spacing that comes with it – is regarded as a key to the Lions’ system. While spacing and shooting per se are no novelty in Chinese basketball, the physical versatility Guangsha exhibits is a treat on both ends, as Pargo can play as a true combo guard, knowing that he will have shooters to kick out to at any given time.
2 – Fluid rotations
While it is refreshing to see young players play, the equality in minutes awarded to players may have come at the expense of production. While Li Jinglong, as a spot-up threat, has shown far more encouraging signals after a disappointing rookie season going for 7.7 ppg in less than 19 minutes per game, most players have been underwhelming from beyond the arc (with Wang Zirui being straight up bone-chilling at 21%; not that this isn’t on par with his career shooting). Having long rotations where almost nobody is guaranteed more than 20 minutes and a few shots per game can easily break your rhythm, and the aforementioned spot-up oriented team becomes a cold, cold place where Pargo, whose shot selection doesn’t always help his percentages, might suddenly feel left on an island. While Guangsha is a young team with many possible unexpected bloomers who might just be minutes away from exploding, at some point you make a decision and trust some players more than others. Wang Zheng needs to be a starter in our book and Li Jinglong might force his coach’s hand by keeping the good shooting spell that he started showing last season. There has to be a starting five, not a kinda-starting nine.
3 – Coexisting with Lin Chih-Chieh
The last two seasons have been quite kind to Guangsha in terms of long-shooting from abroad. Jonathan Gibson (the team’s starting PG in 2013) shot 35.5% from deep, a respectable number, and Jamaal Franklin (2014’s PG) 36.1% is even better, if only by a limited quantity. Both could grab rebounds, dish assists and shoot from distance if by chance someone else was handling the rock. Lin, on the other hand, is a local shot creator in a league where having local shot creators is the defining trait of winning teams. Beijing has Sun Yue and used to haveLi Gen (now a Flying Tiger for Xinjiang, because money); Guangdong can roll out Zhu Fangyu and Yi Jianlian whilst even Shandong back in its Finals days had Ding Yanhuhang and Sui Ran. Local talent matters in a league where every team can afford a ground-breaking guard from either Europe or USA. Lin likes to handle the ball, although his percentages from deep paint a worse picture of his shooting than deserved (he can spot up and knock down shots but he just doesn’t do it that often), and approaching his seventh season in Hangzhou his quest for a bigger role won’t find many naysayers if Pargo underperforms.
4 – Adjusting to Chinese standards
One last point that probably should be stressed is that life as a CBA import is not easy. While the adjustments off court are mitigated by the relatively short period of stay (max five months) and the very frequent practices, which at least help locals and imports jell together on and off the floor, the expectations are sky high, especially for a team that isn’t exactly starting from the bottom. Guangsha is a good team looking for a next-level player. If you don’t bring palpable evidence confirming you fit that description, it will be adieu time in the blink of an eye. It is a wild ride, and with a healthy dose of good luck, an American player will a lot of get success, fame and money. Is Jeremy Pargo ready to adjust from European, team-first action to Chinese, uncompromising, straight up Jet Li Hero-ball? We certainly hope so, as he’ll be one of the great talents in the league next year if everything goes right.