NBA Rumors: Zhou Qi May Join The Houston Rockets This Season

The Houston Rockets may be considering bringing Zhou Qi over from China this year.

Hupa, ESPN‘s Chinese Network affiliate, reported that Zhou had recently flown to Houston to meet with Rockets’ management to discuss the possibility of joining the franchise this upcoming season. The Rockets selected the seven-foot-two, 218-pound, Chinese center with the 43rd overall pick in this past year’s draft.

Following the Rockets selection of Zhou, it was widely speculated that the 20-year-old would spend one more year over in China due to his existing contract with Xinjiang Flying Tigers. And that appears to be the case, according to Netease United States reporter Zhang Qiang.

“We might sign Zhou Qi in the next year or the year after, but it will not be this year, is clearly not a good time,” a high-level Rockets management source told Zhang.”He is young, talented, skilled and height. On his [potential] in terms of height, his excellent ball-handling skills, the ability to shoot well, but he was still evolving.”

Zhou averaged 15.8 points and shot 60.8 percent from the floor last season with the Flying Tigers. He also led the Chinese Basketball Association with 3.2 blocks a contest.

Zhou played for the Chinese Olympic team in Rio this summer, finishing third on the team in scoring with 5.6 points a game over 19 minutes of action in five contests. He shot 56 percent from the floor (9-of-16) and tied for the team-lead in blocks (five) and steals (seven). However, Zhou totaled just six boards and committed 10 turnovers.

Against the United States, Zhou started the game at center – the only time he was in the starting lineup during the tournament – and produced three points along with one blocked shot and a steal. He was also 0-for-2 from the field,was called for four fouls and had two turnovers in 18 minutes of action.

While Zhou is apparently not going to start the season in Houston, it doesn’t mean that he can’t join the Rockets following the conclusion of the CBA — as many players do. The Chinese Basketball Association’s regular season runs from the end of October through the first few weeks in February.

Houston has gone through a lot of change this offseason. The Rockets will be under the direction of new head coach Mike D’Antoni, and they will be without Dwight Howard (Atlanta), Terrence Jones (New Orleans) and Jason Terry (Milwaukee) who departed as free agents this summer. In addition, power forward Donatas Motiejunas (restricted free agent) and Josh Smith (unrestricted) are still on the open market.

D’Antoni is an offensive oriented coach, which should suit the Rockets just fine. Houston — led by James Harden — was a top-seven offensive team, producing the fourth most points in the league at 106.5 a game. Harden finished second in the league with 29.0 points a game as he shot 43.9 percent from the field and 35.9 percent from beyond the arc. He was also sixth in the NBA with 7.5 assists a game though he finished with just a 1.65 assist-to-turnover ratio.

Harden was one of four Rockets that appeared in 30 or more games with the team to average double-figures in 2015-16 — Howard, Trevor Ariza and Marcus Thornton were the others. Harden should have plenty of offensive help this year with addition of power forward Ryan Anderson, guard Eric Gordon and center Nene Hilario. The Rockets will also have Michael Beasley for a full season. Beasley scored in double digits in 13 of the 20 games that he appeared in with Houston and averaged 12.8 points on 52.2 percent shooting overall.

Houston’s biggest problem will once again be on defense. The Rockets ranked 25th in the league last year, giving up 106.4 points a game. Their main problem was guarding the three-point line as they allowed their opponents to knock down 36.1 percent of their shots from beyond the arc — which was ninth worst in the league.

Houston currently has 18 players under contract, with 14 of those being guaranteed, and are over the salary cap. The Rockets will likely officially sign Motiejunas, who told Fox 26 that he is fully recovered from the back surgery, sometime before training camp begins at the end of September.

If the Rockets do sign Motiejunas, it likely means that the four players who possess non-guaranteed deals — Bobby Brown, Isaiah Taylor, Gary Payton II and Kyle Wiltjer — will lnot make the club. Taylor, Payton and Wiltjer could end up with the Rockets’ D-League team, Rio Grande Valley Vipers. Wiltjer, Taylor and Payton all showed flashes of their ability during the summer league action.

Rookie Chinanu Onuaka, the team’s second round selection at pick No. 37 in 2016, will also likely begin the season in Rio Grande Valley. The six-foot-10, 19-year-old demonstrated his rebounding prowess during summer league action, but is still very raw offensively. Onuaka averaged 3.0 points and 5.4 rebounds while shooting 43.8 percent from the floor in five games in Las Vegas.

[Image via Houton Rockets/Twitter]

Share this article: NBA Rumors: Zhou Qi May Join The Houston Rockets This Season
More from Inquisitr