Let me begin by saying that I’m a believer. I don’t know when, or if, it will all ever come together for the 7-foot-1, 210-pound(?!) 22 year old. But I believe that it can.
OK, so here’s the bad news: Zhou Qi shot 18.8 percent from the field in his first NBA season. Six makes on 32 attempts. Nineteen of his 32 attempts were three-pointers. He, well... yeah he only made two of those.
He looked nervous. He looked lost. I felt for him. I think he will grow out of that.
But he can play.
I’m not sure how much weight he put on over the course of the season, or how much the Rockets coaches want to say he doesn’t need to beef up too much. He needs to put on at least 25 pounds. His wingspan is ridiculous. At 7’8, he’ll be surpassed in the NBA only by Mo Bamba and Rudy Gobert next year.
He’s a stretch center or a power forward. He and Clint Capela are the only real youth with potential the Rockets have in development right now, with apologies to Chinanu Onuaku and Isaiah Hartenstein.
Zhou averaged a respectable 11 points and 6 rebounds in 26 minutes per game with the RIo Grande Valley Vipers. He shot a not-great-but-also-not-the-worst-and-promising-when-you-realize-he-was-adjusting-to-the-NBA-three-point-line 33.3 percent on 3.5 attempts per game. He’s not afraid to shoot, but he needs to get better at it to be playable.
Next year, he won’t be an asset to the Rockets, on the roster anyway. I can’t be the only person who remembers he’ll be on the second year of a four-year contract (the final year is a team option, according to basketball-reference). I’m sure there are other GMs around the league as tantalized by his skill set as I am.
Here’s the thing about that set of skills: it is not just wingspan and three-pointers. The thing that jumped out to me when I saw him in Vegas last summer was his feet. They are light and quick, and he was able to wall of small ballhandlers on the perimeter after switching out onto them. Sound like a useful skill in today’s NBA?
He is also not your standard plodding tall guy with the ball in his hands. He can take a few dribbles and find cutters. I don’t believe he can do either of those things at an NBA playoffs level yet, but I think he will sometime. All Zhou needs to do is work with John Lucas the way Clint Capela has, and the growth will come. I can’t wait.