1

Wang Zhelin: Eventual first round pick in NBA Draft?

Chinese center Wang Zhelin had a breakout performance at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit, when he posted 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting and eight rebounds in 21 minutes against a rotation of Kaleb Tarczewski, Tony Parker and Nerlens Noel for Team USA. In his first two seasons as a pro, Wang has developed into a very efficient scorer, ranking eighth in the Chinese league in points per shot last season, displaying fairly impressive skills as a post player.

Wang is listed at 243 pounds but has that weight is well distributed on his lean frame. Nonetheless, he’s able to get deep position on the low block and below the rim to grab offensive rebounds because of his strong base. He has proven himself able to move opponents off their spot with his back to the basket at that level of competition, and possesses really good footwork. Despite his age (2013-2014 was his age-20 season), Wang has tremendous patience to finish at the rim. He is able to go strong if uncontested but often opted for a variety of up-and-unders and head-fakes in order to get opponents in the air, so he could go around them and lay it in.

That patience was also in display out of the pick-and-roll in that Hoop Summit game against Team USA, when he neutralized Noel’s shot blocking and scored on him three times in the fourth-quarter. Wang was solely a pick-and-roll player in that game, showing soft hands to catch the ball on the move. He displayed good instincts as the screener, always looking to draw contact, and is a huge target with when receiving the basketball from guards.

But in China, it seems as if the majority of his scoring came on postups. He showed a preference for face-up drives from the high post area. Wang has very decent mobility for his size, loves spin moves and uses his large body to protect the ball well, posting a low 12.4% turnover rate last season. He strongly favors his left hand, both when driving and finishing. Also, he flashed a solid catch-and-shoot jump-shot from the mid-range area, with decent mechanics and average release speed (which is a plus considering his size). There were some impressive passes here and there but Wang ranked below average in assist rate among centers.

Wang is also a tremendous transition player. Fujian led the Chinese league in pace and he looked like a really great fit for that style of play, showing himself capable of rebounding and leading the break. He looked very fluid running the floor, with impressive speed when you consider his height and weight. He’s not a high leaper and has a below average six-foot-11 wingspan, but did very well on the glass due to his positioning and general activity, ranking fourth in the league in offensive rebounding rate among position peers. In total, Fujian scored an average of 114.3 points per 100 possessions.  However, their offensive rating was 124.8 in Wang’s 1,358 minutes on the floor, a metric that would have led the Chinese league by a wide margin.

Evaluating his defense is a lot more difficult due to the lack of recent full games available. At the Hoop Summit, his mere presence was impactful because of his size. Tarczewski and Parker struggled to move him off his spot and finish over him in the post. He had an incredible block on Gary Harris in transition and erased an off-balance attempt by Rasheed Sulaimon seconds later. In highlights, he looks like a good shot blocker off the weakside at the pro level. Wang ranked eighth in the Chinese League in block rate among centers. He was an average rebounder, grabbing 20.2% of opponents misses when he was on the floor. His team allowed an average of 114.3 points per 100 possessions, but that number dropped to 111.8 with him on the floor. That was the second best individual defensive rating on the team behind Delonte West, but below average among position peers.

It’s unclear at this point when Wang is planning to declare for the draft. Upon declaring, my guess is that he would be a first round pick due simply to his size and skill level. The short wingspan makes for some questions on the defensive end though, and how high he is drafted will probably depend on team-specific workouts.

Rafael Uehara

Rafael Uehara is a regular contributor at Upside & Motor. More of his stuff can be found at basketballscouting.wordpress.com, his own blog, and Hoop365. He can be followed on twitter @rafael_uehara.