Zhou Qi Scouting Report


Zhou Qi is said to have agreed joining the Houston Rockets for next season. The terms of the deal haven’t been reported yet but it’s rumored to be a four-year pact.

The seven-foot-two center arrives from China after helping Xinjiang win the CBA title last season — averaging 32.8 minutes per game, posting a 20.3 PER and often finishing games.

The 21-year-old wasn’t given much opportunity to show substantial improvement to his skill-set, though. Zhou had no shot creation responsibility, wasn’t fully utilized as a floor-spacer or vertical threat and generally didn’t have a meaningful role on offense – logging a 19.9% usage rate in his 1,443 minutes, according to RealGM.

He also hasn’t improved his physique much. In fact, sina.com lists him at 209 pounds, down from the 218 pounds he measured at the 2016 NBA Combine. As was the case, Xinjiang continued to hide him on the lighter opposing big man and he remained a liability in post defense and in the defensive glass.

Nonetheless, Zhou’s combination of length and agility continued to help him create many events, which led to the team defending better with him on the floor rather than on the bench, despite the limitations caused by his lack of strength.


He has the resources to develop into a very good defender down the line.

Zhou is very agile and bouncy for someone his size, able to rotate off the weak-side in help-defense quickly and get off the ground off two feet in a pinch to protect the basket — averaging 2.8 blocks per 40 minutes last season.

He wasn’t stressed to extend pick-and-roll coverage way above the foul line but doesn’t seem uncomfortable hanging out way high on the perimeter and showed some flashes of terrific pick-and-pop defense.

Zhou also proved to have enough foot speed to keep pace with smaller players attacking downhill so he is within reach to use his massive standing reach to block shots or deflect passes chasing them down at the CBA level, which is full of guards with recent NBA experience.

But, overall, his defense was quite disappointing.

Zhou blocked a lot of shots when he found himself well positioned or had simple rotations to make but hasn’t yet developed into the type of center who can anticipate rotations and prevent the opponent from getting to the rim in the first place. He also consistently sells out for blocks.

Zhou is almost always flat-footed, which makes him slow reacting to what’s going on around him. When he was put in the pick-and-roll and the ball-handler played with pace, Zhou often seemed lost, just standing there, which could be an effective strategy, except for the fact he doesn’t position himself well enough and isn’t active enough to take away the pull-up or the pass away from the opponent.

As he pretty much never bends his knees to get down in a stance, he is not an option to pick up smaller players on switches either, since he’s vulnerable to getting shook side-to-side.

The biggest issue is below the foul line, though.

Zhou’s massive nine-foot-four standing reach is an asset for him to contest turnaround jump-shots effectively in the post but he lacks to strength to hold his ground, consistently getting knocked back and giving up an easy short look.

That problem also manifested itself in the defensive glass. Zhou collected 23.3% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor but that’s not being a particularly impressive mark for a seven-foot-two player who can get off the ground with ease. And those were mostly of the uncontested variety, given he didn’t always seek a body to box out and was consistently pushed out of the way when matched up against opposing behemoths.


Zhou just existed out there on offense, without much of a purpose other than crashing the offensive glass.

Xinjiang let Andray Blatche do pretty much whatever he wanted. Zhou set some ball screens for him on the side of the floor from time to time but Blatche either slowly moved into an isolation after them or kicked out to the perimeter. Despite his willingness to pass, hitting the roll man isn’t a part of his game.

When Blatche was off the floor, usually in the beginnings and ends of games, Zhou set quite a few ball screens as well but his teammates never really looked for him as a vertical threat. He is a so-so screener whose thin frame isn’t a chore for on-ball defenders to navigate around but should be able to play above the rim as a target for lobs, given how easy he gets off the ground for blocks or rebounds and his massive standing reach, if not necessarily in traffic, at least sneaking behind the defense.

Zhou still doesn’t post up much either, even against smaller players on switches, as he’s unable to set deep position. When he manages to get the ball down low, he still relies on his rip-through move to draw contact, which remains effective, as he averaged 7.1 foul shots per 40 minutes based for the most part on that and his involvement in scrums on the offensive glass. Zhou also flashes a reasonably well coordinated face-up drive here and there.

He has gone farther away from the basket over time, which helps explain why his effective field goal percentage has declined season over season in his three years of pro experience — down to 58.1% last season. That said, Zhou didn’t get many looks out of pick-and-pop or played a role as a pure floor-spacer either — as he averaged just 1.5 three-point shots per 40 minutes.

His unorthodox release, with the guide hand coming down very quickly, is a bit quicker but he still takes a while to load up his near standstill shot, featuring a very pronounced dip. Nonetheless, he’s proven himself capable to hit open shots, nailing 36% of his 55 three-point shots last season.

The passing skills he’s flashed in the past remained underutilized, as he assisted on just 5.2% of Xinjiang’s scores when he was on the floor last season, not given much chance to show his ability to pass out of the short roll and used very little as a hub to facilitate offense from the high post.

Overall, Zhou’s most substantial contribution on offense was crashing the offensive glass, where he’s shown a knack for chasing the ball off the rim and can use his seven-foot-seven wingspan to rebound outside of his area — collecting 11.2% of Xinjiang’s misses when he was on the floor last season.

Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara


One thought on “Zhou Qi Scouting Report”

  1. Good take, some general thoughts.

    Xinjiang is a different bird from the rest of the CBA , they have an actual recognizable system and not just over rely on foreign player trying to make things happen. This became even more apparent in the playoffs this year where they looked like the Cavs in the Eastern Conference and was virtually untouchable.

    In general they move the ball a lot and ping pong it around the perimeter very quickly until they find a shooter. usually that guy isn’t Zhou and he acts usually as the middle pass guy. Zhou’s usually operating more in the high arc / post area and their goal is usually to ping it to the corner 3.

    When things break down they have multiple guys that can do something with the ball and Zhou’s probably 4th on that pecking order at best. (Blatche / Adams and Li Gen usually do the make shit happen role.) Though a good deal of their make it up on the fly plays in semi-trans / transition involve Zhou Qi.

    Blatche is basically the only legit point forward in the CBA so when he do his own thing it generally works very well especially since they usually put 3 or even 4 guys that can space the floor around him and he can shoot it himself as well. the Flying Tiger’s best lineup is probably Blatche / Darius Adams / Zhou / Kelanbaike Makan / Kamiran Sidikejiang ( or sub in Li Gen for one of the later two if you want even more offense. )

    They do a bit of big to big lob sort of play between Blatche and Zhou but not very often. Zhou’s lob catch are mostly in semi-train or transition plays where defense just aren’t set yet .

    ( of course, it should be noted that the CBA especially in the regular season kinda just play standard conservative pack the paint defense and let people take all the 3s they want. so that is another part in why Zhou doesn’t get much done. )

    The only half court play that they run a decent amount where Zhou’s kinda important is a high post back door play where they rely on Zhou drawing the opponent’s big out and then use his ability to see over everyone and very long arms to hit back door cuts. it works ok but Zhou doesn’t throw the greatest pass ever and the cutters don’t always catch harder passes all that well.

    OTOH, a key thing to remember is that Zhou is not going to be featured more in the NBA than he is in the CBA, and that he’s shown the ability to do quite a bit of stuff while not being featured might actually bold well to his ability to carve a role in the NBA. Yi Jian LIan’s the opposite situation where he was a featured guy and looked awesome but couldn’t cut it in that role in the NBA and also couldn’t scale down effectively.

    In the context of the Rockets system, Zhou’s a pretty tremendous transition threat , being both very quick for his size and once he catches the ball it’s almost like Durant / Giannis where he can use his huge strides and still change pace / directions very effectively while making good finish under control. the body control aspect is a major reason I think he has a good chance of being better than people expect.

    His spacial awareness seems quite solid to good, and while his passing results been a mixed bag it seems to me he sees the floor pretty well and generally has a good idea of what the play is and where people should be going. with multiple magician guards that the rockets have they might be able to get him a ton of lobs, just maybe not in the classic pick and roll fashion.

    While he has some range I think his ability in that area is probably overstated, especially right now, as you noted his mechanics isn’t that consistent, he has above average feel and touch but the spin on the ball isn’t that great, we’ll see how that develops once in the NBA but right now he should be considered a “guy who can hit open shots” rather than “guy you want taking the shot. ” like Ryan Anderson. even his CBA team treated him as such.

    I think his current greatest weapon in the half court is actually rolling down hill from the top of the arc with the ball, in the times he gets to do that it looks virtually unstoppable as he can change his strides in ways that just unfair. the reason you want to guard him right now way out isn’t as much about him shooting three as you can’t have him just take a dribble and start a layup move with his first step on the freaking foul shot line. and in the event the other teams packed the paint so tight he usually has the right read and can throw it out to someone open .

    We should note Zhou played a lot of minutes in the CBA due to a variety of reasons, that may have impacted how he plays and how the team wants him to play.

    He’s an odd duck for sure, you can’t just hope to peg him in the classic role of either a stretch 4 or a pure pick and roll guy.

    But perhaps more importantly I think we can agree on that on offense he has enough different tools that MDA almost surely can find some use for him.. it’s the defense side that’s much more tricky. your right that he’s caught flat footed WAYYYY too often and looks really bad doing it. but at the same time the flashes and upside on that end is so hard to overlook.

    I think there’s enough flashes of him moving laterally and also rotating very well that the cases of him looking like a freaking statue might be a simple case of lack of consistent defensive discipline ( granted, the rockets might not be the best team to fix that problem.) and frankly in the CBA especially in the regular season they hardly needed him to be that disciplined anyway.

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