Jimmer Fredette and Ding Yanyunhang are the 2017 CBA Regular Season MVPs after two memorable seasons in which both men dragged their teams into the postseason. Ding beat out speedy Liaoning guard Guo Ailun and Guangsha’s Hu Jinqiu whilst Fredette got double the votes of his nearest rival for foreign MVP, Sichuan’s Hamed Haddadi.
That Fredette has won the foreign MVP should surprise no-one. In many ways, he is the perfect CBA import; a guard who can carry an offense and will have no hesitation taking 40 shoots a night if allowed. His consistency and ability to exploit traditional defensive weaknesses within Chinese basketball have also allowed him to punish defenses on a nightly basis and is a huge reason as to why the Sharks– who this website continues to regard as paper tigers until they beat a good team in a meaningful series— surged into the postseason.
A legitimate NBA player, Fredette’s arrival in the CBA is testament to the financial strength of the Chinese league. The American could have taken a cozy bench role in the NBA but Shanghai made him a competitive enough offer that he took over the comforts of home. Whether he returns to China the following year remains to be seen but if he wants to continue to make huge money and take all the shots he wants, a top-tier CBA side will be more than happy to make that happen.
As for Ding, this season has been a revelation. The streaky wing scorer has been a tantalizing prospect for a while but seemed destined to be a sideshow for a Shandong team that belonged to beloved import guard, Pooh Jeter. But with Jeter moving on during the offseason, Ding came out of nowhere and began putting up big numbers in a hurry. As well as twice setting a career high of 43 points this season (both in huge wins against CBA giants Xinjiang and Guangdong), Ding went past 40 points on multiple occasions. The three point shot is streaky but no-one will care given how the lanky forward was constantly one basket away from just carving teams apart.
Critically, Ding’s fantastic season covered up a disastrous year for the Shandong front office that began with offering Norris Cole a crazy contract that only lasted for 9 games. The Bulls then went through Juston Dentmon before settling on AJ Price. All the while, Ding kept saving the Bulls and finished as his team’s leading scorer– an unprecedented occurrence in an era where foreign players do it all for their CBA teams.
Shandong’s luck is also shared by the Chinese National Team. Having run its golden generation of Yao Ming and Wang Zhizhi into the ground, the last few years have been tough on the Big Red Machine. Yi Jianlian
(who tellingly did not make the shortlist for this year’s award despite a strong season) has had to do so much and as the years go by, is starting to run out of gas. Zhou Qi is a springy defensive force but certainly no offensive weapon. Ding could be the talisman his country needs going forward. Like with Shandong prior to this season, Ding has been a quiet cog and averaged 8.6 ppg during the 2014 Asian games (China’s last major outing as a team). He should expect more shots following a break-out year in his domestic league– and Chinese basketball will be relieved to give them to him.
Edit: Yi Jianlian did not play enough games to be on the shortlist. My bad for not noticing.