Besides Dennis Smith Jr, the only other player to excite the Las Vegas Summer League crowd has been Ding Yanyuhang. Mavericks fans had their first look at Ding back in the Orlando Summer League when he helped lead the ‘Orlando Mavericks’1 to the a 5-0 record. Ding played about 20 minutes per game in five games for those Mavs but the big difference between Orlando and Las Vegas Leagues is that, in Vegas, there are fans.
The MFFL representation in Las Vegas is scarce at best with Lakers fans outnumbering them 4,250 to one2. But as soon as Ding hustled up to the scorer’s table the room woke up. A normal Summer League day includes four games and runs from 1:30 pm – 10:00 pm with general admission seating. So if a Lakers fan wants to get a good seat for the Laker game at 5:30 pm then they’d probably have to show up as soon as the doors open at 12:00 pm. Most fans on Saturday were storing their energy for when the Lakers matched up against the Celtics at 5:30 pm, so the arena was fairly quiet when the Mavericks took the court for the first game of the day. There is not much about Dallas Mavericks basketball that gets a room full of Lakers fans excited but Dennis Smith Jr’s dunks and the very presence of Ding Yanyuhang did just that.
The two big questions about any international prospect, Ding included, are ‘is he/she ready’ and ‘would they come over?’ Someone that can answer those questions better than anyone is ESPN College Basketball and International Analyst Fran Fraschilla who spoke to Dallas Sports Fanatic about the Ding phenomenon.
According to Fraschilla, he’s “not sure if [Ding is] a two-way guy yet.” ‘Two-way’ is in reference to the Yogi Ferrell Rule where NBA teams can sign players to play on both the NBA teams and G-League teams. The Mavericks signed Jonathan Motley to a two-way contract earlier this summer. A two-way contract player3 is the very definition of a fringe NBA player because they can only come up to the NBA squad for 45 total days throughout a single season. This might be exactly where Ding would land if the Mavericks decided to bring him into the fold. “He is a good basketball player, not sure yet if he’s an NBA basketball player yet,” continued Fraschilla. “He is certainly impressing people.” But as one member of the Mavericks coaching staff put it, “He can play. No question.”
Ding might not be on the level of an NBA caliber player quite yet but the phenomenon still remains. In both games the Mavericks have played so far Ding has received the most response of either participating team by far. Fraschilla credits the response to the novelty of a Chinese NBA player but thinks that there’s more to the Ding-love, “You don’t see a lot of Chinese players playing in the league…but you admire the hustle and intensity.”
In a way, you come for the novelty but stay because the guy can really play. As the domestic MVP of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA)4 Ding has shown scouts and peers that he is the real deal, including former NBA All-Star Stephon Marbury who played in the CBA with Ding for the past few seasons.
Marbury was on a four-foot platform about to be interviewed by ESPN’s China Affiliate when Mavericks Assistant Coach BJ Armstrong walked by. The former players excitedly shook each other’s hands and when Armstrong referenced Ding (who was standing three feet to Marbury’s right) Marbury responded with an ecstatic, “He should be in the League! MVP!”
Whether it’s the novelty of a Chinese basketball player or the merit of his game, fans love Ding.
That love may not prove his worth to an NBA team on the court but it does prove that, as Fraschilla aptly put it, “The basketball world is shrinking.” Fans are becoming more informed about prospects and players like Ding and that is only a good thing for basketball around the world. There’s a chance Ding could receive a training camp invite with the Mavericks or another NBA franchise, and if he does, that fanbase is sure to embrace him with open arms.
- Coach Armstrong REALLY liked that name when I told him that’s what I had been calling that team
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- Or a Yogi
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