The first Chinese player to enter the NBA draft in nine years, Zhou Qi has potential, but will have much to overcome.
Twenty-year-old Chinese pro Zhou Qi has filed the paperwork to enter the 2016 NBA Draft. He will be the first Chinese player there since Yi Jianlian was selected no. 6 overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2007. Sun Yue, a 6′ 9″ guard, was also in that draft, selected by the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round.
Qi is not projected to go as high as Yi. He is a 7′ 2″ center with decent pick and pop skills, possessing a soft touch on his jumper, and natural ball-handling, but he’ll be a project physically. Qi currently weighs only 209 lbs. Compare that to New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingiz, a player to which Qi shares some similarities, who was considered too skinny at 7′ 3″, 230 lbs.
Draft projections seem to be all over the place. DraftExpress.com has Qi projected to go in the first round at no. 26. NBAdraft.net has him projected to go no. 47 in the second round. Last December, Chad Ford had Qi as a Top 20 prospect, but the “rail-thin” Zhou has since dropped off into the Insider pages.
Mike Schmitz at DraftExpress put together some excellent video breakdowns on Qi that deserve some more views:
Qi can definitely shoot it, and he looks very comfortable handling the rock in transition, but the “Weaknesses” video seems to outweigh the “Strengths.” And the most damning evidence is his lack of physicality.
One thing you can say about Porzingis, even if he is too skinny right now, he plays with fire. He wants to be great. Qi seems to lack motor, and you can’t be 209 lbs AND lack motor. This is the kind of kid Draymond Green would eat like my dad at the steak station at Golden Corral. Qi trying to post-up Draymond would have the poor kid setting up at half-court.
As far as potential goes, Qi certainly has it. He may actually end up being a better NBA pro than Yi Jianlian, but for now, he doesn’t appear to be a successor to Yao Ming. But he doesn’t have to be. Schmitz suggests that the level of comfort NBA teams have with Chinese prospects isn’t all that high.
The CBA is not high on the list of competitive leagues despite the money they have to spend to bring in NBA names, albeit ones arguably past their prime. Domestic players are generally not considered elite. Qi’s 15.8 points per game and 9.8 rebounds don’t jump out in a league in which Michael Beasley went for 31.9 ppg, 13.2 rpg.
If Qi gets drafted, it would be a success just for him to be a good pro. It’s not necessary for him to be a star. Just having a decent career in the NBA will help adjust the prevailing opinion of Asian players, however minutely, both for those coming into the NBA, and of course, for the only one still there.
Cover photo from FIBA.com.