Matthew Starnes | @MatthewHStarnes
Who is Wang Zhelin?
Last Season Stats: 38.6 minutes, 21.8 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.4 steals, 0.8 blocks, 2.9 turnovers. Shooting splits of 55/10/63 (FG/3PT/FT).
Wang Zhelin is a 23 year old, 7 foot, 250lb center from China. His professional career began in 2012, joining the Fujian Sturgeons of the Chinese Basketball Association. Despite having one poor season due to a knee injury, he has averaged over 20 points and 11 rebounds with at least 53% field goal percentage throughout his other 4 years of professional basketball. Zhelin was drafted with the 57th overall pick of the 2016 NBA draft, but has since been playing overseas the past year in order to further his development.
Given his professional career is in its early stages, Wang Zhelin has an advanced traditional big man game. Most of his shots come from rolling to the rim or posting up a defender, using a series of spin moves and quick foot work to free himself up.
Despite being a seven footer, Zhelin doesn’t have the vertical of most centers and relies on his length, positioning, and foot work to out rebound and out perform opposing players.
This part of his game is nothing to write home about. Given his frame, in 38.6 minutes, only 0.8 blocks a game is way too low. He has the ability to turn away defenders and alter shots due to his height, but his lack of vertical hurts his chances of deflecting shots.
His lateral quickness can also hurt his chances on defense when facing a quicker center or a small ball lineup that will try to beat him off the dribble. The positive note is that a player of his stature could easily improve defensively, his long arms and wide body frame give him the ability to play average defense at his worst. Given Zhelin plays in Memphis, the Grizzlies personnel would make Wang a more capable defender in no time.
Wang Zhelin has enormous potential. His footwork and tenacious motor for posting up defenders is something that is loved in big men. Despite his lack of shooting touch and mediocre defense, these are all areas where he shows promise and signs of improvement.
Even though he is putting up impressive numbers, it’s up in the air whether he will join the Grizzlies next season or not. With Deyonta Davis being the primary backup center for Memphis, it would be surprising if Zhelin makes the roster. Because of this, Wang Zhelin could stay another year overseas or he could join the Grizzlies with most of his playing time more than likely being in the D-league. Given the basketball market in China, it would not be surprising if he were to stay there to develop his game.