What will year one with the Rockets look like for Zhou Qi?
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21-year-old Zhou Qi, the 43rd overall pick in 2016 by the Houston Rockets, made his NBA preseason debut on Oct. 4 (PHL time), putting up three points, two rebounds, two blocks, and four fouls in five minutes of action. Here's Enzo Flojo's scouting report on the Chinese big man:
Zhou Qi is the best center in Asia. Let's not even argue about that. I mean, which other big man from any Asian country is in the NBA right now? Nope, Australia and New Zealand aren't counted.
The 7'2 Chinese beanpole is a wonder all on his own. He weighs around 210 pounds and has a 7'7 wingspan. That means he is lithe enough to be quite mobile despite his size, and he has the length to be extremely bothersome for his foes, especially on the defensive side of the floor.
Remember that he was Defensive Player of the Year in the 2016-2017 CBA season, helping naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche lead the Xinjiang Flying Tigers to their first-ever CBA title. In doing so, Zhou averaged 16.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.0 steal, and 2.3 blocks per game. That was enough for the Houston Rockets to get him tickets to the NBA Summer League this year, where he impressed in his first outing, putting up 17 points. He eventually ended up averaging 6.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 2.0 blocks per game.
Those are not stratospheric numbers by any stretch, but they do give us a glimpse of the kind of things Zhou can do for a team like Houston. He can run, shoot, rebound, and most importantly, protect the rim. He certainly does not have the same amount of offensive finesse and instincts like another Chinese big, Yao Ming, but he sure seems to have a lot of upside in terms of being an elite shot-blocker even at this level.
Having said that, don't be surprised if Zhou doesn't make a helluva lot of noise in year one. Like some Rockets bigs before him, Zhou will likely spend some significant time, not just on the bench, but even in the G-League. Clint Capela did it. So did Terrence Jones, who, ironically, is now playing in China. Ditto with Sam Dekker, who is now with the LA Clippers.
Zhou will need to continue adding muscle, adjusting to the pace of the NBA game, and improving his offense. In his current state, he is very very good at one thing, but that is no longer enough in this league and at this level. For Zhou to be a meaningful player getting significant minutes on a title contender, he has to do more than swat shots.
Zhou has to imagine an immediate future where he is the primary back-up to either Capela or Ryan Anderson, and a more distant future where he supplants Nene as the best big man on Houston's second unit. That means hitting midrange shots with more consistency. That means finishing around the rim with more ferocity. That means being able to guards opposing bigs using his legs more than overly relying on his length. He has the potential to be a highly productive two-way player, but for him to reach that summit, he will need to put in the work, which means he will probably see a lot more burn in practice, or with the Rio Grande Vipers.
If I'm wrong and he wows us all with otherworldly agility and efficient offense, then that would be nothing short of jaw-dropping, but realistically speaking, Asia's number one center will need a lot more seasoning to really take off with the Rockets.
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