7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer, Stretch Big

Zhou Qi Scouting Report

CONTEXT

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.

DEFENSE

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.

OFFENSE

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

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer, Stretch Big

Zhou Qi Scouting Report

A lot more ink has been spilled on Zhou Qi than most players who are projected to go in the late in the first round or beyond. And for good reason, first there is his age issue which I went through in detail here. (My general conclusion is that though we obviously can’t rule anything out, I generally came out more relieved than worried after putting all the information I can find together.)

Then there is also the fact that it’s not hard to see a path where he is REALLY good; he is historically long but mobile and blocks shots at an absurd rate in a league that features plenty of ex-NBA bigs – showing not just physical advantage but often great skill as well.

Kevin Pelton’s statistical translation actually had him first (!) in terms of statistical translation this year (assuming age 20).

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(An example of the amazing things Zhou can do: here a guard isolates against him, fakes a drive and then steps back the other way, then gets completely blocked. Not only that, but Zhou stayed balanced in the play and took the ball all the way for a dunk.)

To top this all off, he flashes a lot of skill on the offensive end, even though he hasn’t really put up huge scoring numbers as a pro (but he’s really efficient) and his game is closer to a perimeter player than a traditional big, leaving a lot of room for imagination. Maybe he’s Porzingis with better defense? Gobert with better offense? Certainly it’s not completely out of the realm of possibility.

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 photo Zhou_Qi_2015_FIBA_Asia_Championship_Highlights 2_zpsahsocokh.gif

This article will be my general thoughts on him after going through a lot of his full games (both in FIBA and the CBA), what I think of him now and what he will need to do to be a NBA player.

1. The most interesting thing I came away with may be that he feels so inconsistent on both ends of the floor for someone with that sort of production. I guess that’s what Mike Schmidt was referring to when he questioned Zhou’s feel for the game in the Draft Express videos. I’m not sure if that’s the issue but that’s certainly one way to look at it.

He can look incredible in blocking shots and generally make everyone take floaters around him (though the floaters seem to go in at an alarmingly high rate). At the same time there are a lot of plays where I’m pretty sure he’s either out of position or the whole team is, resulting in him just having little chance to really contest drives.

Offensively, he looks like he’s just going through the motion most of the times setting weak screens and then passively roll to the rim but then he suddenly makes a few great plays.

The body language going up and down the floor is often not great, suggesting poor motor, but then he would have bursts where he outruns everyone and fills the lane like a gazelle as well.

2. the substituion pattern: he plays A LOT of consecutive minutes on Xingjiang – often playing the entire first and fourth quarter (partially because you can’t put both foreign players out there in the fourth). That might be a major factor in why he sometimes looks that way. A comparable player in the NBA would almost certainly not play that sort of pattern in the regular season.

3. As Rafael noted, the Xingjiang team doesn’t really run plays for him much. Only Liu Wei (a former teammate of Yao Ming) seemed to actually make an effort to pass to him. The foreign guards were gunners. Andray Blatche does pass well but prefers to look for weakside shooters.

Although the CBA is a very three-point happy league, the spacing still feels pretty bad most of the time in the halfcourt, partially because guys just don’t contest three-point shots hard (they especially don’t chase guys over screens).

I feel that a more competent NBA system would probably open up his offensive game more and playing him more limited minutes would hopefully help his effort level.

His passing, like most of his game, is a mixed bag. He often tries to hit back cuts when he gets the ball at the top of the key. The completion rate isn’t good but he isn’t missing by much either. A lot of it is balls just glancing off the hand type of miss.

The offensive aspect overall is actually fine; he’s got enough tools in the box that surely he can find some niche that works. He also has a lot of NBA tricks in the bag already. For a guy who isn’t very physical and likes to take jumpshots he drew a lot of fouls. That’s because he pulls a lot of tricks you’d see in the NBA; jumping into guys who he faked into the air, actively baiting contact on jumpers and even some rip through moves.

His floor on offense is pretty high, I feel. There’s a low ceiling there too but the odds of getting there is much lower.

The defense part is the real variable, where the ceiling seems to be defensive player of the year and the floor can be unplayable.

His technique on defense is often quite awful but he makes up for it with some ridiculous length and timing. When he tries to show up high in pick and rolls, it always looks hilarious and indecisive. His closeout technique is usually bad (but occasionally good.) There’s no reason he should get beat that easily by local guards and wings on closeouts. Guys get around him quite a bit. Part of this seems to be him just daring them to take a layup with him closing in from behind. It works a lot in the CBA but it’s unlikely to work well at the next level.

My general conclusion watching him is that he REALLY needs to get better coaching on defensive positioning in general. But then again, it’s hard to say that other CBA bigs are much better in that regard, though they usually play much more conservatively on defense. Zhou seems to be the only guy trying to play an aggressive NBA-style defense but fails horribly at it most of the time.

How much he can pick up in terms of defensive footwork is probably the greatest variable in his success. He needs to get stronger but the biggest issue feels like his inability to protect the ball effectively in traffic. In the halfcourt, it’s uncommon that he just gets bulldozed straight up, as he can leverage his height to either front guys or contest even when knocked back a bit.

Defensive rebounding is another major issue, though it’s again hard to assess because it’s not like other guys always box out well or crash the board that hard. Still, I really don’t like the way he rebounds. Only very rarely does he grab them with any authority, and he has a bad habit of just trying to tip the ball to a teammate when he obviously could just come down with it.

I think my conclusion is that he doesn’t seem to have been coached properly in doing big man stuff for some reason. (Although he was brought up as a guard/wing originally when he was very young, as one can obviously see in his offensive game, he has been uber tall since around 13-14 years old.) The only skill area that you really like is the shot blocking, where he shows some really special skill. Most notably, he almost always stays in balance and manages to keep the ball in play quite often.

That he’s still really productive while having all these flaws may be a good sign, I guess? The American players in the CBA tend to be roughly as productive as they were in the NCAA (but more experienced and developed than they were back then). It lacks the high end athletes but, on average, it’s kind of like NCAA with NBA rules.

To be a good NBA player, he would need very serious work on his defensive fundamentals to be sure. As he’s predicted to go in the later first by most mocks, that might bold well for him, as he’s more likely to be drafted by teams that have better track records in developing players and are more likely to be patient with him. It would also set a much more realistic expectation for him.

Editor’s Note: Richard Chen is an Economics student who lives in Taiwan. More of his work can be checked on his own blog One Basket Blog and he can be followed on twitter @RollingWave0720.
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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer

Zhou Qi Scouting Report

CONTEXT

*Zhou Qi hasn’t progressed as much as one could hope in his second season as a pro. His statistics are roughly the same as they were a year ago, he hasn’t improved his physique and there are no tangible improvements in his game one can point to with certainty.

*What makes Zhou Qi an appealing prospect is the fact he is quite agile for someone who stands at seven-foot-two and has a seven-foot-six wingspan. The NBA has gone further and further away from plodding seven-footers who can’t defend in space. Zhou Qi fits the profile of what the league is looking for in its seven-footers these days, possessing lateral quickness to move side to side and cut off dribble penetration, aside from length to protect the rim. Then on offense, his ease leaping off the ground and his standing reach make him an asset to score out of pick-and-roll.

*Not much is asked of Zhou Qi. His team, Xinjiang, also has Andray Blatche, who either shoots or attacks off the dribble whenever he gets the ball. Blatche is not necessarily a selfish player (he actually looks to pass a lot off the bounce) but when he is in the game, almost everything they do on offense involves him. Andrew Goudelock was the American who subbed in for Blatche most of the season when he rested (Americans can only share the court for a limited amount of minutes in the CBA) and he was replaced late in the year with Bryce Cotton. Neither is a pass first point guard who looks to create for others as his first priority. Xinjiang also has some Chinese veterans who are also above Zhou Qi in the pecking order, as Andrew Crawford mentioned to me on twitter. As a result, Zhou Qi is seventh on the team in usage rate, according to RealGM. I don’t think I’ve seen them run a single play for him in the five games I’ve watched.

*It’s rumored some NBA teams doubt Zhou Qi’s listed age. According to Draft Express, Zhou Qi was born on January, 16th, 1996 – making this 2015-2016 his age-20 season. Personally, I have no clue. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. His real age is important to try assessing his potential development curve. If he is older than 20 and his body still hasn’t developed much, then it’s likely he will stay this skinny for most of his young adult life. I don’t think any team would take him with a first-round pick then. Maybe there are tests to estimate his true age by analyzing his bone structure. But it’s more probable that the only way to truly find out is hiring a Chinese private investigator and having him go to the hospital where he was born, seek a birth certificate or figure out when he first started attending school. I can’t do any of these things, so for the purpose of this review, I’ll assess Zhou Qi as a 20-year-old.

*Andrew Crawford wrote on ‘The Classical’ a couple of years ago that “the CBA has a longstanding rule stopping Chinese players from registering for the draft before they turn 22”. So it’s still up in the air if we should expect Zhou Qi to declare for this year’s draft. Wang Zhelin didn’t when his stock was at its highest, immediately after appearing at the 2012 Nike Hoop Summit, and now he is expected to go undrafted after missing most of this season with injury. Maybe that could impact the decision, which will surely need to be negotiated with CBA officials.

LACK OF STRENGTH

*The first thing that stands out about Zhou Qi is his physical profile. He has a very weak 209-pound frame in the context of his seven-foot-two height.

*Due to his lack of strength, Zhou Qi can’t establish deep position in the post to force his teammates to get him the ball, even when wings pick him up on switches. He also possesses no power moves at this point of his development, relying on the high point in the release of his hooks and turnaround jumpers to get his shots off.

*The biggest issue comes on defense where Zhou Qi is unable to hold ground in the post, contain face-up drives through contact or even keep the opponent from finishing through when he fouls them. Zhou Qi was hopeless to stop the momentum of former NBA journeymen such as Randolph Morris, Yi Jianlian, Shavlik Randolph and Ike Diogu or the Chinese Shaq Han Dejun when these fully developed men posted up or drove at him.

*That weakness also manifests itself in the defensive glass. Zhou Qi is inattentive to his boxout responsibilities by nature but even when he tried getting physical with these opponents, he simply lacked the force to win many battles for contested rebounds. According to RealGM, Zhou Qi collected 23.7 percent of opponents’ misses in his 1,295 minutes on the floor this season but based on the games I saw, those were mostly uncontested boards obtained due to his positioning close to the rim.

MOBILITY & LENGTH

*Zhou Qi is likely to be a first round pick if he were to declare for the draft, though, because of his combination of mobility and length.

*Even if he can’t keep anyone from getting to the basket, Zhou Qi’s nine-foot-six standing reach is very difficult for guards and wings to finish over – averaging 3.5 blocks per 36 minutes.

*He is also been taught to elevate vertically, often able to alter shots even when he doesn’t fully block them and protect himself from foul trouble – averaging just 3.7 personal fouls per 48 minutes this season.

*Zhou Qi is not yet a consistently great help-defender, sometimes rotating off the weak-side a step too late. But his quickness and ability to leap off the ground with ease make it that if he is within a couple of steps from the rotation, he’ll get to the driver and block the shot.

*But despite his ability to move side-to-side fluidly, Zhou Qi does not do well when asked to defend pick-and-rolls high in the perimeter at this point of his development. That potential to cut off dribble penetration hasn’t materialized yet. He does not get in a stance, standing flat-footed and not in a position to make an athletic move in a pinch. Guys like Lester Hudson and Will Bynum were able to drive around him without much struggle.

*He has also not shown to be a real asset to pick up smaller players on switches at this point.

*Zhou Qi’s length does make an impact in a couple of other areas when he is asked to defend in the perimeter, which happened with some regularity this season because Xinjiang’s coach often hid him on the less physical of the opposing big men. His long arms help him pick up steals and deflections making plays in the passing lanes, collecting 1.2 takeaways per 36 minutes – which is a good mark for a center. He’s also shown able to closeout to stretch big men and contest outside shots effectively.

*Offensively, Zhou Qi’s rim running is underutilized. Xinjiang fails to use his vertical threat enough. He is an iffy screener whose thin frame doesn’t make it all that difficult for on-ball defenders to navigate around and has so-so hands to catch the ball on the move and finish strong in traffic but can play above the rim as a huge target for lobs.

*Zhou Qi doesn’t have enough strength to set inside position in the offensive glass regularly but does play with good energy, can rebound outside of his area thanks to his seven-foot-six wingspan and can often reach the ball at a higher point than most of his opponents. He’s collected 11.4 percent of Xinjiang’s misses, which isn’t particularly impressive but is nonetheless something positive he brings to the table. Zhou Qi hasn’t, however, proven explosive enough to turn most of these second chances into immediate putbacks.

SKILL LEVEL

*The upside of drafting Zhou Qi, aside from hoping his frame can fill out, regards his skill level.

*He has shown the ability to handle the ball in space fairly naturally when left unguarded; grabbing a defensive rebound and bringing the ball up the floor, sometimes even attacking from end to end in transition, and as a face-up driver from the elbow area. It’s extremely unlikely Zhou Qi would be able to do this sort of dribbling in an NBA setting but it’s not nothing.

*He has also flashed the ability to pass off the bounce, able to find the open man when he is evident. But these drives tend to finish in more turnovers than assists. Zhou Qi’s handle is loose and he’s prone to getting the ball stripped in traffic due to high dribbling – resulting in a 0.89 assist-to-turnover ratio this season.

*With his back to the basket, Zhou Qi has no power moves to back down opponents but has shown decent touch on turnaround hooks and has even flashed a turnaround fadeaway jump-shot, hiking his off-leg Dirk Nowitzki-style. It’s hard to tell how good he is scoring out of the post, though, because Xinjiang doesn’t go to him much due to the issues already explained above.

*Zhou Qi has proven a clever player drawing foul calls via the rip-through move Kevin Durant uses to bait officials into awarding him free throws for simulating a shooting motion after bumping arms with the opponent. He averages seven foul shots per 36 minutes this season, which is impressive in the context of his low 18 percent usage rate, and has converted them at a 76 percent clip.

*Zhou Qi has converted seven of the 12 three-point shots he’s taken this season and a few more long two-pointers. He’s proven capable of hitting near-standstill outside shots but hasn’t been given much opportunity to do so at Xinjiang. His jump-shots tend to come late in the shot clock, as I didn’t see the team spot him up beyond the arc or have him pop off the ball screen at all.

*Zhou Qi doesn’t elevate much and doesn’t fully extend himself but doesn’t need to for a high point in his release due to his height and length. He can bend his knees fine to load his shot and elevates fluidly off the catch. His mechanics don’t look necessarily textbook as he is always in a hurry to bring his guide-hand down but he has exhibited pretty good touch.

PROJECTION

*If Zhou Qi puts his name in the draft and keeps it all the way through, then transfers right away, I think only a team in the bottom third of the first round will consider him.

*He can block shots and finish alley-oops. That’s appealing. But he lacks strength to be considered an NBA-caliber athlete at this point. I don’t see how he would be able to box out or hold his ground well enough against this level of competition for a coach to feel comfortable putting him in an NBA game 10 months from now.

*Where I could be wrong (aside from Zhou Qi undergoing some massive body transformation and gaining something like 20 pounds in one offseason) is if Zhou Qi absolutely kills showcasing his skill in these workouts, with the perception of him then changing from a “rim runner/shot blocker” to a unicorn “stretch big/shot blocker”.

*I failed to see that Kristaps Porzingis could be good right away because I didn’t put enough importance in his ability to make shots. Obviously Zhou Qi doesn’t look to be the same caliber of shooter Porzingis had already shown to be. But the thing is he hasn’t been given enough opportunity to tell with certainty. His seven-of-12 three-point shooting this season isn’t enough for us to say he is definitely excellent at it, but it’s not something to be discarded either. Maybe it’s possible that he is one of those guys whose accuracy is better than the way he looks shooting. One could probably only tell by watching him workout and scrimmage.

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

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator

Wang Zhelin Scouting Report

(Originally posted at Upside & Motor).

Wang Zhelin is about to conclude his third season as a pro in the Chinese league. His team regressed this season and will finish with one of the worst records in the CBA but Wang’s had yet another highly productive year. He just turned 21 last week, meaning he doesn’t have to make himself eligible for the NBA draft, but after three full seasons of pro experience, Wang might consider transferring to the United States.

Wang’s top skill is his ability to finish in transition and out of the pick-and-roll. He is a very fluid runner when sprinting up the court and diving down the lane off of setting a ball screen. He is an iffy screener, who doesn’t always set strong position or make sure he draws contact, but has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and awareness to fill the open gaps behind the defense. He’s proven able to finish strong with momentum and through contact, too.

Wang also gets touches on the post and has exhibited good ball skills. He tends to set position in the mid-post area. This gives him more space for his preferred move — a face-up drive with his left hand — but it could also be because Wang struggles to establish deep position. It’s hard to say because he doesn’t engage in much physical play. Wang is currently listed at 220 pounds by CBA Data, which means he trimmed down 23 pounds from when he was weighed at the Hoop Summit three years ago.

But, though he does not manage to back down opponents on pure strength, Wang has proven capable of maintaining balance through contact. He also gets enough separation for close range attempts through smooth footwork and patience, working his defender with fakes. He has managed to score well around the length in this level of competition and draw lots of shooting fouls but struggles to elevate from a stand-still position — not promising for his NBA future.

Nonetheless, according to RealGM, Wang has finished his 479 shots at a 60.5 percent clip and averaged 6.2 free throw attempts per 36 minutes this season. He has converted just 64.7 percent of his foul shots but there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his shooting mechanics. It seems as if he rushes through the process at times.

Though it’s unlikely his post game will translate to the NBA, his ball skills might. Wang has flashed some very quality passing, scanning the floor with his back to the basket and on the move. He assisted on 6.7 percent of Fujian’s scores in his 1,276 minutes, ranking 10th in the league among centers. Wang is susceptible to getting the ball stripped on double-teams but has generally used his body well to protect his dribble. His 14.2 turnover rate is quite acceptable in the context of his 24 percent usage rate.

It’s also questionable if his offensive rebounding will translate. Wang has been very good in the Chinese league, collecting 14.2 percent of Fujian’s misses when he’s been on the floor. He looks to establish inside position and plays with good energy but can be pushed off his spot by tougher players and is unable to rebound outside of his area due to a short wingspan. Wang boxes out with some consistency but doesn’t play with a lot of toughness, which is also an issue on the post, where he struggles to hold ground.

On the other end, Wang plays with good effort. He hustles back in transition and gets in his stance when showing-and-recovering on the pick-and-roll. His most impressive feature is his lateral mobility to stay in front of smaller guards attacking him off the bounce and his size well to challenge shots at the rim. Wang lacks the closing speed and the length to effectively contest shots on the perimeter, though. He is not very aggressive leaving his man and crashing inside to protect the rim, either. Maybe he is coached to play that way but he’s blocked just 24 shots on 33 appearances.

Wang has collected 22.1 percent of opponents’ misses when he’s been on the floor. While it ranks him in the top 20 in the CBA, it’s rather average for a potential NBA prospect. Nevertheless, it’s relevant to notice Wang plays a lot of minutes without substitution for a seven-footer, averaging 37.5 per game this season and 40 per game in 2013-2014. It’s not uncommon to see him get fatigued in the fourth quarter of games, and that can affect the energy with which he plays.

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

 

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer

Li Muhao Scouting Report

After a promising campaign last season (statistically speaking), Li Muhao appears to have stagnated in his fourth year as a pro.

Dongguan seems to think that way, at least. His minutes are far down in comparison to last season and his role is very limited. Li’s now in his age-23 season and one would expect the team to start expanding what’s asked of him. But Ike Diogu’s presence has limited his playing time to just 495 minutes on 33 appearances. Dongguan scores far more efficiently with Diogu and the threat of his three-point shot at center. Li will often start games, play a six-seven minute shift and then not sub in again until late in the third quarter or early in the fourth. He’s become simply a minutes-eater for them.

Dongguan relies heavily on the three-point shot, with over a third of its total attempts coming from beyond the arc. Li rarely gets touches on the post and is asked mostly to screen and roll when he’s out there. It is likely Dongguan doesn’t give him the ball much because Li simply hasn’t developed his ball skills (his 18.2% turnover rate is sky high in the context of his 15.6% usage rate) but it’s hard to say that for sure. His post game has in fact looked mechanical in the past but it was at least a resource for drawing shooting fouls at a decent rate, which is no longer the case. And it appears he’s also no longer encouraged to take that catch-and-shoot mid-range jump-shot.

Those plays in which he sets a ball-screen tend to turn into long bombs by Bobby Brown, with Li mostly diving down the lane looking for potential offensive rebounds. He doesn’t play with much energy tracking these misses off the rim or toughness looking to establish inside position under the glass, though. Li’s collected 12.3% of Dongguan’s misses when he’s been on the floor, an average mark, more often relying on his long arms to secure deflections.

When he’s gotten the ball sneaking behind the defense, Li’s shown good hands to catch the ball on the move and touch to finish at rim level, converting his 119 shots at a 59.6% clip. But though almost a third of his field goals have been dunks, he doesn’t play above the rim as a target for lobs and doesn’t elevate with much power out of a standing still position. Nonetheless, Li looks better conditioned, more nimble and less sluggish than he did in the summer, making these rim-runs more fluidly. He’s now listed at 220 pounds – 18 pounds lighter than what he was listed at the Stankovic Cup.

On the other end, Li is not the positive presence his size suggests he should be. He can bend his knees to get on a stance guarding the pick-and-roll by dropping back to prioritize rim protection, which is not a small deal for someone his size. Li has also shown pretty decent lateral mobility and has the length to contest mid-range shots effectively.

But he’s not very comfortable defending in space, needing to give a cushion to big men that draw him outside the lane, even if that player has the range to hit a shot from there. And he’s hopeless if a smaller player has a shot at running around him. Li can be aggressive leaving his man to rotate to the front of the rim and do so with some quickness but can’t play above the basket as a constant shot blocking threat, denying just 19 shots all season.

But the real big issue is his rebounding. Li does look to box out with some consistency but can’t elevate off the ground in a pinch to track the ball off the rim. He will also, a lot of times, jump with just one arm extended. As a result, Li’s collected just 13.2% of opponents’ misses when he’s on the floor, a mark that ranks fifth worst in the league among true centers. With Diogu protecting the glass a lot better, Dongguan is allowing fewer points on a per-possession basis without Li on the floor.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at basketball.realgm.com and sina.com

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Catch&Score Finisher, Chinese 7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator, Stretch Big

Yi Jianlian Scouting Report

Yi Jianlian is either still 27 years old or already 30, depending on which website you look for the info. Nonetheless, most of his game is still reliant on the athletic ability he possesses in his chiseled seven-feet, 238-pound frame. The most dominant Chinese player of his Era is once again leading the league in scoring among natives, while impressively averaging 1.62 points per shot on 574 attempts, and Guangdong has won 33 of its 35 games under his leadership.

He is a fluid runner sprinting up the court in transition and cutting to the front of the rim after setting a down screen in the half-court. Yi doesn’t play above the rim as a target for lobs very often but has soft hands to catch the ball on the move and can finish strong with momentum, converting his 549 two-point shots at a 60.2% clip this season. He doesn’t play with much energy under the glass, not actively fighting for inside position often, but still manages to make an impact through his jumping ability and seven-foot-three wingspan, collecting 10.8% of Guangdong’s misses.

He has a quickness-edge over most of his competition and uses it well on the post, on sudden turnaround moves looking to finish strong at the rim, proving able to elevate off the ground with power in a pinch. On face-up drives from the high post or the perimeter, Yi actually doesn’t have long strides and dribbles too high in traffic but manages to protect possession by using his body well and maintains balance through contact to get to the rim or draw shooting fouls. He’s averaged a jaw-dropping 9.4 free throws per 36 minutes this season and converted them at a 74.5% clip. His 9.7% turnover rate is quite low in the context of his sky high 29.1% usage rate.

Part of that is because Yi does not attempt to create many shots for others. He has flashed some appealing passing instincts scanning the court with his back to the basket and on the move off the bounce. But despite this and playing with several shooters around him, Yi has assisted on just 6.7% of Guangdong’s scores.

His ball skills are mostly on display in his outside shooting. Yi has only taken three-point shots sporadically since his return to China, averaging less than one a game over the last three seasons. But he does take quite a few long-twos, sometimes from three-point range but with one or both of his feet on the line. Yi doesn’t elevate much off the ground and doesn’t have a particularly quick release but elevates with pretty good balance and extends himself fully, which gives him a high release point tough to contest effectively. He’s hit 11 of the 25 three-point shots he’s taken this season.

On the other end, Yi is very selective with his effort. He does get on his stance guarding the pick-and-roll by showing-and-recovering but will at times look disengaged off the ball. Yi has great length to contest perimeter shots effectively but won’t always hustle on closeouts. He’s not an effective interior protector with smaller guards running at him but has proven able to play above the rim as a shot blocker rotating off the weak-side. Yet, his 40 blocks on 34 appearances aren’t particularly impressive.

He doesn’t look to box out diligently, more often relying on his athleticism to chase the ball off the rim quicker than the opposition. His 22.8% defensive rebounding rate is a top 20 mark, but not quite the dominance you’d expect from an NBA-caliber athlete. Yet, through all of these frustrations, Yi is very effective playing the passing lanes with his long arms. He’s averaged almost two steals per game, which help explain why his individual defensive rating of 103.3 ranks second in the league.

Editor’s Note: Statistical data for this post was researched at realgm.com.

Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here and at BballBreakdown or at Upside & Motor, a couple of websites where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara.

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7-footer, Chinese 7-footer, Post Scorer, Shot Creator

Han Dejun Scouting Report

Liaoning ranks second in the Chinese league in wins at the moment, having won 30 of its 35 games. Lester Hudson’s volume shot making has been the driving force for such a successful campaign but Han Dejun’s interior scoring has also played a role. The “Chinese Shaq” is having a very efficient season, averaging 1.76 points per shot on 294 attempts – according to realgm.com. In his 961 minutes, Liaoning is averaging 123 points per 100 possessions.

Han does most of his work out of the post. He uses the strength in his seven-foot-one, 299-pound frame to establish deep position and back opponents down to neutralize a potential block attempt. Often managing to get separation for his right-handed hook within close range, Han has good touch on his finishes, converting 63% of his shots.

Due to the physical nature of his style of play, he’s also managed to draw shooting fouls in volume and has averaged 7.1 free throws per 36 minutes, converting 73.6% of them. That is not to say Han is a black hole, though. In fact, his court vision scanning the floor with his back to the basket is quite impressive, as he’s proven able to identify teammates sliding to the rim behind the defense or rotating to an open spot around the perimeter.

More athletic types give him a lot of trouble, though, as Han struggles to finish and pass around length due to his limited athleticism. His 17.4% turnover rate is quite high in the context of his 21.1% usage rate. His lack of quickness and elevation keep him from being a good option out of the pick-and-roll and making an impact on the offensive glass. He also rarely even looks at the rim when he catches the ball above the foul line.

Han is a good screener whose big frame makes it a chore for on-ball defenders to navigate his picks and has soft hands to catch the ball on the move but can’t dive down the lane with much speed or finish strong in traffic. He’s able to establish inside position below the basket but can’t reach the ball at a high point for putbacks or track the ball off the rim quickly enough to rebound outside of his area. Whatever catch-and-score opportunities he gets come from sneaking behind the defense on the baseline and getting a dump-off from Ailun Guo or Lester Hudson out of dribble penetration.

Han has looked a bit more nimble within short range on the other end, exhibiting some friskiness guarding the pick-and-roll flat and lateral mobility to stay in front of less athletic big men when they tried taking him off the bounce. But he does not play above the rim as shot blocker and is not suited to defend in space under any circumstance, lacking the feet agility to hedge-and-recover on the pick-and-roll and closing speed to contest shots outside the lane.

His general size clogging the lane is nonetheless effective and Liaoning is preventing scoring more successfully on a per-possession basis with him on the court. His big rebounding area is more of a factor on the defensive glass, as he looks to boxout diligently and has collected 22.8% of opponents’ misses, which ranks him in the top 20. An issue is that Han is quite the target for opponents to seek contact and as a result, his minutes need to be managed. He’s averaging 5.3 fouls per 48 minutes, which is limiting him to just 27.5 minutes per game this season.

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

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