MANILA (Enzo Flojo’s Asia on my Mind) – Here is something you should already know: basketball has evolved from a big man’s game in the 1980s and 1990s to a shooter’s game today.
The most successful teams, whether we’re talking about club teams or national teams, need an abundance of reliable three-point shooters to spread the floor and stretch the defense. Strong three-point shooting can open up a team’s scoring and, on the flipside, enable a team to mount a quick rally. Perimeter shooting can certainly change a team’s fortunes big time, and the same rings true even in Asian basketball.
In fact, throughout the history of Asian hoops, a plethora of outstanding three-point artists have graced the hardwood. Who can forget about Korea’s Shin DongPa and Hur Jae, China’s Hu Weidong and Li Nan, Allan Caidic of the Philippines or Japan’s immortal sniper Takehiko Orimo, who is still torching nets in the B. League?
There are so many more, of course, but what I want to write about here are the players who are set to enter the pantheon of Asia’s best shooters. These are the guys whom we can expect to see at the FIBA Asia Cup 2017 and who have consistently shown impressive strokes from beyond the arc these past couple of years both on their national team and in their respective pro circuits.
So who are currently the best shooters in Asia? Let’s start the debate now!.
The Magnificent Seven:
Yuan Shuai (CHN)
When one thinks of China, names like Yi Jianlian, Zhou Qi and Guo Ailun immediately pop into the conversation. Those are China’s big three as of the moment, but one guy often overlooked when it comes to national team selection is up-and-comer Yuan Shuai. At just 22 years old, Yuan has not yet achieved household name status in China, but if he remains consistent with the way he shoots from long distance, he could be this generation’s version of the aforementioned Hu and Li. At 1.90m, Yuan has good size at the SG spot, and just look at the numbers: 2.5 triples per game in last year’s FIBA Asia Challenge and also 2.7 triples per outing in this season’s CBA campaign. Heck, he’s so sharp he may just supplant Li Gen as Ding Yanyuhang’s chief back-up for the national squad.
By now, if you haven’t heard of Terrence Romeo, you’re probably living under a rock. That’s how wildly popular he has become in this part of the world. His dribbling wizardry and aerial acrobatics combined with his three-point potency have made him a fan favorite even for the foes of Gilas Pilipinas. Just how good is this guy? He made 2.1 triples per game in the FIBA Asia Championship 2015 and splashed 2.0 per contest in last year’s OQT. Right now, he is hitting 4.0 three-pointers per game in the current PBA season. Talk about red hot!
Lee has not seen a lot of action internationally, but every time he has donned the Korea kit, he has been quite impressive. At the FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 where Korea placed second overall, the 1.91m guard hit 2.6 triples per game, helping the Koreans space the floor well. Even in the KBL, he has been on fire for his club, Anyang KGC, making 2.2 three-point bombs per contest. Korea have a lot of great shooters, yes – names like Yang DongGeun, Cho SungMin and Heo IlYoung come to mind – but Lee is maybe their sharpest tool in the shed, and it would do them well to have him on their national squad for both the EABA Championship and FIBA Asia Cup.
Naoto Tsuji (JPN)
For the past few years, Tsuji has been on an elevated plane in Japanese basketball, but recently it seems he has taken a backseat to the likes of veteran Yuta Tabuse and man-of-the-moment Yuki Togashi. Despite that, Tsuji remains one of the Akatsuki Five’s best long range weapons. In last year’s FIBA Asia Challenge, he nailed 2.1 triples per game, which was Japan’s team-high. He has also shot very well in the current B.League, sinking 2.1 threes per outing. At 27 years of age, the 1.85m combo guard is in his physical prime, and he would be a great choice to be counted among Japan’s backcourt this year.
Lu was a mainstay for Chinese Taipei’s national team for a long time, but he was bypassed in 2016 in favor of younger and more athletic talents. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it was clear that the East Asian quintet missed Lu’s nonpareil sniping. In the FIBA Asia Championship 2015, Lu led the entire tournament in three-point shooting with a scorching 55.2% clip, making 3.2 three-pointers per game. How you don’t bring that back to the national team, I don’t know. For Chinese Taipei, it’s really plain and simple – they need Lu’s brand of perimeter offense back for them to make a big splash this year.
Hassan isn’t a popular Asian shooter, but he should be. I mean, just look at how crazy good he has been from beyond the arc these past couple of years. He averaged 2.8 threes made per game in BOTH the FIBA Asia Championship 2015 and FIBA Asia Challenge 2016 while also hitting 3.6 triples per contest in Qatar’s pro league. Mizo Amin will turn 26 this year, and that means we still have maybe 6-8 good years of this guy. He has already been hailed as Qatar’s new ace for the foreseeable future, and with numbers like he has been registering, it’s easy to see why. Now it’s time for the rest of Asia to take notice.
Elie Stephan (LBN)
The last time Stephan played at an Asian level tournament was way back in the FIBA Asia Championship 2011. That’s a shame considering how good he is and how essential outside shooting is for the Cedars. Given how he played a major role in the WABA Championship this year, it stands to reason we’ll see a lot more of Stephan in the FIBA Asia Cup and even the qualifiers for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. And if you have forgotten how good this guy is, here’s a simple reminder – he hit nearly 3 triples per game in WABA 2017 and is torching the LBL nets for 2.8 threes per game this season. If that’s not good, then I don’t know what is.
So who else do you think will be among this year’s best shooters in Asia?
FIBA’s columnists write on a wide range of topics relating to basketball that are of interest to them. The opinions they express are their own and in no way reflect those of FIBA.
FIBA takes no responsibility and gives no guarantees, warranties or representations, implied or otherwise, for the content or accuracy of the content and opinion expressed in the above article.
Enzo Flojo, one of Manila’s top basketball bloggers, always has Asian basketball on his mind. His biggest basketball dream? To see an Asian team as a legitimate gold medal contender in world basketball. He believes it will happen in his lifetime. If you have big basketball dreams like he does, then you’re in the right place.