- Stephon Marbury: 34.3mpg, 23.3ppg, 6.1rpg, 9.8apg, 3.1fpg, 2.8spg, 0.1bpg, 47% FG, 38% 3PT, 84% FT
As you can tell from the sheer number of them, Shanxi have had a lot of trouble with their imports this year. They tried out about ten in the offseason, eventually settling upon three; Smith, Taylor and Michael Sweetney. The team had wanted to bring back Lee Benson, who was a star for them last year, but they refused to yield to his contract demands. Taylor has been with the team the whole season, but the rest has been a juggling act. Even though he played well, Smith was replaced after seven games by Adeleke, who got injured in his second game and was replaced for a short time by Benson, seemingly having yielded some on his contract demands. Benson was then replaced after five games by Marbury, which you probably already knew. (Sweetney never played a game for them, by the way.)
While all this was going on, Shanxi kept on losing. At the time of Marbury's first game, Shanxi were 4-13 and in last place in the CBA. They then lost the first 3 games he played in, falling to 4-16. Since then, however, they've won 5 of their last 9. And Marbury has been why.
I had my doubts about whether Marbury would be any good in the CBA, about whether he had anything left to give. But those doubts were misplaced, very misplaced. Marbury is the best player in China. His first couple of games were somewhat sedate as he blew off the rust, but since then he's been on a tear, averaging 25ppg, 9.5apg and 6.5rpg over his last ten games. He even flirted with a quadruple double at one point, totalling 26 points, 12 rebounds, 13 assists and 7 steals in a win over Liaoning last month. Marbury's 9.8 apg lead the entire CBA, and it's not even close; second place is Fujian's Lu Xiaoming with 7.0 per game, and Smush Parker is third with his 5.4. Only one other player has more than 5. Marbury's steals per game are also fourth in the league, and his scoring and rebounding totals are self-evidently huge.
Asked to be a role player in Boston last year, Marbury was really, really bad at it. He was worse offensively than Brian Scalabrine, and when the two played together (as Doc Rivers seemed to like doing), it was game over. However, given a chance to be Starbury again, Stephon is shining. He's had to drop down several rungs of the basketball ladder to do it, but it's worked.