All posts by jonathanyxchen

Paul George to OKC: The Most Influential Trade of the 2017 Offseason

Everything changed when four-time all-star Paul George announced that he would join his hometown team, the Los Angeles Lakers, after finishing his Indiana Pacers contract after the 2017-2018 season. George’s attitude irritated the management of Pacers, his team since he joined the NBA. From then on, the Pacers began negotiating trades with other teams, including entertaining offers with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics in order to avoid losing him for nothing, the same way Oklahoma City lost Kevin Durant. Surprisingly, the Pacers accepted OKC’s offer in the end: they sent Paul George to OKC, and got Victor Oladipo, a 25-year-old shooting guard from University of Indiana, and Domantas Sabonis, a young developing power forward who can shoot and play defense. Who benefited from the trade? Who made the wrong choice?

Oklahoma City Thunder Introduce Paul George during Media Event

To Paul George:

It absolutely must have been a hard decision for PG to announce his plans for after the upcoming season right now. It shows his disappointment with the Pacers and his willingness to go back to his home team. However, now, everything changes. For the following season, he has the chance to be teammates with Russell Westbrook, one of the best players in the league and the MVP of this past season. It’s a totally different team, as PG now has the chance to fight for greater accomplishments. With the Thunder, PG’s role will no longer be as the first option-star player, which will probably make him unhappy, but will give him the chance to help Russell Westbrook, which is a completely good thing for PG.

As everyone knows, George can play as both a small forward and a power forward (not to mention he started out as a shooting guard), has great shooting range and spectacular defensive skills. With the Indiana Pacers, as the only star, he had to lead the team from both sides. Offensively, when the team was in trouble, he would be the one to take and make the tough shots, while on defense, he would be assigned to the best player in the other team. In OKC, Westbrook will take charge of the ball, creating more shooting space for Paul George, a guy who took 6.6 attempts from the 3-point line on average this past season at a rate of 39.4%. This would absolutely benefit PG for bigger plays. George himself has said that if OKC makes huge breakthroughs (like winning the conference championship), it’s not definite that he will go to LA.


To Russell Westbrook:

After losing KD, Westbrook finally gets help. This past season, Westbrook attempted countless impossible layups and jump shots, which led to a lot of people criticizing his selfishness. The fact is, there were no other players on OKC that could have helped Westbrook. It changed when PG arrived. In the upcoming season, Westbrook needs to share the ball more often as PG is on the team. Westbrook will probably not score as well as he did this year, but the whole team will undoubtedly perform better and go further in the playoffs.

To OKC Thunder:

After a first-round exit this season, the OKC Thunder goes back to being a competitive team. Outside of a developing Brandon Ingram, Paul George’s game and style probably the most similar to that of Kevin Durant. As OKC adds other pieces like PF Patrick Patterson, they will probably have a starting five consisting of Westbrook, Andre Roberson, PG, Patterson and Steven Adams, with capable backups at every position except the four spot. The public insist that this roster would still find difficulty in competing with the Golden State Warriors, but this is most definitely the best team that they can possibly form. Miracles happen all the time. Who knows?

Patrick Patterson (pictured) could see an elevated role in OKC, but is it enough at the power forward position?

To Indiana Pacers:

Many experts argue that Indiana Pacers make the worst choice, because OKC’s offer is not as good as Cavs’ and Celtic’s. No matter the trade is bad or not, it marks the start of rebuild for Pacers. Victor Oladipo is only 24 years old. Although he did not play well enough in OKC, he could still score more than 15 points this season. Domantas Sabonis is a first-year. This young man from Gonzaga already shows his talents. Pacers managers see their potentials and make the choice. Whether these two young men will realize the managers’ hope is a question. Just wait and see.

The Evolutionary History of Foreign Players in the Chinese Super League

The Chinese Super League (CSL) has recently aroused the attention of the soccer world for the expensive players recently purchased from mainstream European soccer leagues. These players who take their talents to China are mostly at their golden age and play for a decent team in Europe. Generally speaking, the main reason for these talented players to be convinced to play in China is for money. However, the CSL is trying to build a top league in Asia or even in the world, basically out of nothing, by bringing in these talented players. The main focus of the media is often geared towards looking at moves to China through the eyes of the players themselves rather than the Chinese organizations, leading to a bias that portrays Chinese soccer in a bad light.

The trend of attracting world class players started in 2011, when Guangzhou Evergrande bought Dario Conca from Fluminense for $10 million. Conca was the MVP of Campeonato Brasileiro Série A in 2010, and he made a splash upon his arrival in China. He scored 53 goals and assisted 35 times in 100 matches while playing for Guangzhou Evergrande. With Conca’s outstanding performance, Guangzhou Evergrande became CSL champions three times in a row, and even won the AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Champions’ League in 2013. Conca went back to Fluminense in 2014’s winter, but came back to China again one year later. Shanghai SIPG, a new force in CSL, bought Conca for $10.4 million due to his fantastic performance during his time with Guangzhou Evergrande. Earlier in 2017, Flamengo took Conca on loan from Shanghai SIPG for one year, leaving his ownership to Chinese clubs.

Conca (15) celebrating a goal with a teammate.

2012 was also a striking year for CSL, especially for Shanghai Shenhua FC, as they bought two world-class players from Chealsea FC, French striker Nicolas Anelka and Didier Drogba from Cote D’lvoire. Drogba is still the best foreign player to ever play in CSL, as he has won both the Premier League title and the UEFA Champions’ League.

Anelka being introduced for Shanghai Shenhua FC.

Costing huge sums of money, Anelka only scored three goals during his time in Shanghai Shenhua, and didn’t get along with the manager. On the other hand, Drogba showed his ability of being a top striker, with eight goals and two assists in the only eleven matches he played while having already eclipsed his prime. Three months after Drogba’s arrival, news of wage conflicts between Shanghai Shenhua and Drogba surfaced, prompting his departure from the club.

Whether or not these international acquisitions panned out, these were all just a start. In 2014, with Italian World Cup Coach Marcello Lippi becoming the coach of Guangzhou Evergrande, he started to buy Italian strikers to bolster the team: Alessandro Diamanti and Alberto Gilardino. However, their short time in China proved to be relatively unsuccessful, as both of them left Guangzhou Evergrande in less than a year.

Guangzhou Evergrande has always been the leader in using big sums of money to attract foreign players to take their talents to China. In 2015, the team bought Brazilian central defensive midfielder Paulinho, from Tottenham Hotspur for 14 million Euros. Paulinho was a proven starting caliber player for a strong club in the Premier league, and he was still relatively young. The transfer seemed crazy at the time, but it was just the prelude to the craziness that was to follow in 2016.


More big purchases jumpstarted in January of 2016, and this time, it was not just one club anymore. Guangzhou Evergrande made another big deal by bringing on Columbian striker Jackson Martinez from Atletico Madrid for the unbelievable price of 42 million Euros. Jiangsu Suning, another ambitious team in CSL, bought two Brazilian players, Ramires from Chealsea for 28 million Euros and Alex Teixeira from Shakhtar Donetsk for 50 million Euros. Teixeira’s acquisition broke the transfer fee record at that time, but it was soon broken yet again only half a year later. Meanwhile, Freddy Guarin joined Shanghai Shenhua from Inter Milan, and both Gervinho and Ezequiel Lavezzi joined a new member of the CSL, Hebei Huaxia Xingfu. This was an insane winter for Chinese teams.

Alex Teixeira’s contract made waves in the Chinese soccer world.

Starting in 2017, even more shocking transfer news came without warning when Oscar joined Shanghai SIPG from Chelsea, Carloz Tevez joined Shanghai Shenhua from Boca Juniors and Axel Witsel joined Tianjin Quanjian from FC Zenit.

With so many big stars joining the CSL, many people argue that the phenomenon is negative as so many players come to China simply for the incredibly high wages. This is true, but we can never ignore the fact that the competitive level of the CSL is greatly promoted. With Guangzhou Evergrande winning AFC champions’ league in 2013, more and more teams in the CSL are now aiming to achieve a step further than just AFC Champions’ league glory. While Guangzhou Evergrande has won the CSL championship six times in a row, other teams have been trying hard to break their monopoly. Teams like Jiangsu Suning, Shanghai SIPG, Shanghai Shenhua and Shandong Luneng spent even more money recently than Guangzhou Evergrande, aiming to become the next CSL champion.

To counter the fact that each team relies too much on their foreign players, CSL changed their policy this year: from “4+1” (five foreign players including one from Asia) to “3+1” (four players including one from Asia). The new policy decreases the reliance of each team on their foreign players and emphasizes the CSL’s desire and vision to develop Chinese soccer. Meanwhile, every team has also started to look for even better foreign players. It should no longer be surprising for star players to come to China, because both the players and the clubs realize their profits.

Gervinho playing for Hebei Huaxia Xingfu.

No one is denying that Chinese clubs that make large player purchases are so rich that they can afford any player in the world. By these means, when the CSL is included in the world soccer industry, clubs that pay the transfer fees and wages should get the outstanding players that they want if all players, clubs and parties involved agree to the acquisition. The clubs from the CSL are simply pursuing a top league in the soccer world. Money always talks a lot, but their aspirations should never be despised.