A video was posted recently on YouTube containing 50 minutes of highlights of the young Chinese basketball prospect Zhou Qi. I had heard of Zhou before but honestly this was the first real in depth video I have watched on him. My first thoughts watching it were negative. Just a skinny, tall guy that gets blocks against talent that’s arguably inferior to NCAA basketball. A few more minutes into the video I began to get excited, he almost reminded me of Thon Maker1 (more on him later). Then I came back down to Earth and landed somewhere in between. There aren’t many scouting videos out on Zhou yet, but he is mocked as the 16th pick in the 2016 draft.2 He is obviously going to draw comparisons to Yao Ming but that is a very lazy analysis. Before we start I would just like to say drawing conclusions from a 50 minute video isn’t exactly the ideal version of hard work. So let’s take a look at Zhou Qi and his highlight video, and cast what most likely is a way to early judgment.
Zhou Qi currently plays in the Chinese Basketball Association, a league chock full of players recognizable to even casual NBA fans (each team is allowed two Americans). Playing for the Xinjiang Guanghui Flying Tigers, his teammates are Andray Blatche and Jordan Crawford. He has also played in a few international competitions including the FIBA U-19 championships. He has played some decent competition, so it’s not like he is going to be Dante Exum or Darko Milicic coming into the draft with not a lot of film against good competition.
Listed at 7’1” and between 210lbs and 220lbs he is a very thin, wiry, and arguably undersized player. He looks like a weak 220 as well. His arms are just wiry and he just looks like he floats, and not in a good way. He does have broad shoulders so we could see a bit of an Anthony Davis situation. Davis came into the league weighing 220lbs on a 6’10” frame. Now into his third year in the League Davis has added 18lbs3 and is a much more imposing figure. Such a transformation is not out of the question for Zhou Qi, but teams should be cautious before they hedge their bets on him being able to bang down low. Currently he gets backed down easily4 and barely even moves the rim when he dunks5 at times. He is working on getting stronger, he is shown weightlifting in the video, but he has a ways to go.
Zhou has excellent ball handling skills for a big. He occasionally brings the ball up the floor6 but don’t expect him to be a point forward. He has shown a decent euro step7 but at times he just looks awkward8 and may not get away with that vs. NBA defenses. Finally, he has solid court vision and passing ability9 and knows when to throw it down the court10. All in all he has above average ball skills for an awkward looking 7-footer.
He has solid fundamentals and a really good looking shot for a guy his size. He has shown range out to 3 and I could honestly see him playing as a stretch 5, a role which seems to be becoming increasingly common. His post moves are solid but he needs to work on getting more counter moves. His go to move is a baseline spin and when he is pushed off the block he has a nice face up, up and under move. Strength is the common theme here however. He gets pushed off the block easily and I really doubt he can go through people to finish right now. Another thing I noticed is that he is always dunking with two hands. This isn’t a huge thing, maybe he just likes to be extra sure the ball goes through the hoop. But, if he lacks the hand strength to dunk with one hand consistently, that’s a huge issue. A 7-footer needs to be able to go get bad passes and long boards with one hand. In the video he is shown working out with gloves on, which may be him trying to work on this issue.11 According to the stats he looks like he might be a decent offensive rebounder, a little over a third of his rebounds come on that end.12 A lot of those seem to be times where he just slips by the defense for a put back. Not necessarily a bad thing, it shows good awareness, but he isn’t exactly fighting for rebounds.
Zhou is a solid perimeter defende, plays the pick and roll well, and gets back in transition. Like I said earlier he easily gets backed down. He has good awareness and timing on shot blocking but tends to block shots into the stands. It may look exciting but it gives the other team a BLOB or SLOB. Unfortuantely, he’s not a great rebounder for his size, sitting at just 17.89 DRB%.13
An offensive-minded, high basketball IQ center, with shot blocking potential. That’s how I would describe Zhou Qi. He still needs to grow a lot physically in order to be successful. I have doubts that he could play PF in the NBA. He may be mobile for a center but a vast majority of NBA power forwards would blow right by him. Remember I said he reminded me of Thon Maker in a way. The big difference is that even though they are similar sizes, Thon Maker moves, scores, handles, and is built like a guard. Zhou Qi is built like an extremely skinny big man with slightly above average perimeter skills. I would draft him in the late first, if my team either had no immediate needs or I had another pick that I could acquire a possible contributor with. I think he needs to get stronger to succeed in the NBA, but Manute Bol did make a decent career for himself. If he gets stronger I could see him being a starting big on a bad team or the first big off the bench for a playoff contender. If he goes through an Anthony Davis like transformation (not likely), I could see him being an asset almost any team would like to have.
Likely NBA Comparison: Shorter Manute Bol with better offensive skills.
#1 high school recruit, formerly class of 2016 ↩
2:27, 2:54 ↩
Several companies make gloves that worsen your grip in order to work on ball handling, etc. ↩