The Houston Rockets keep making minor yet underrated moves to preserve depth on the team. After they gave away five players in the blockbuster Chris Paul trade, it seemed like the team was depleted. However, in only the first day of free agency, the Rockets bolstered the center position.
First, they re-signed veteran and efficient bench contributor Nene. However, he is now back on the market after Nene declined a restructured deal. Next, they agreed on a multi-year contract with Zhou Qi to bring him to Houston from China. For those who haven't heard of the 7-foot-2 power forward/center, the Rockets drafted him last year with the 43rd pick.
Most would assume that because of the late pick, he wouldn't be able to help in any way. However, he was a projected mid to late first round pick; he fell because there was uncertainty of when he would join the NBA.
In Zhou, the Rockets have added a solid rim protector with range on the offensive end. He was the Chinese Basketball Association's defensive player of the year, probably partially due to his 2.32 blocks per game, and also averaged 16 points and 10 rebounds per game with a 36.4 shooting percentage from deep.
These are great numbers for a 21-year-old in one of the most competitive basketball leagues around the world. Obviously, it doesn't compare to the NBA, but it shows his potential.
He is also a great fit on the team. His three-point stroke allows him to play the four in certain scenarios à la Kristaps Porzingis. His height and shot blocking lets him play the five too. Look at him to get a lot of lobs from Paul and James Harden. Adding him to the team makes Clint Capela more expendable in a trade to acquire a third star. Even if they don't trade Capela, it allows the team to rest the 34-year-old Nene a little more.
The one knock on Zhou is his thin frame. He only weights 218 pounds, and will have to be stronger to not get bullied in the NBA. On pick and rolls, he is great at rolling and finishing around the rim, but shies away from contact on the pick because of his lack of strength. The fact that that is his major concern is a good sign that he has the talent to thrive in the league. Plus he has been training with the Rockets since April.
The addition of Qi helps improve a depleted Rockets bench. He obviously needs time to reach his full potential, so expect to see his name more in future years. However, right now, he helps make the center position a lot more flexible and can be a backup to Ryan Anderson.
Can't believe there's no mention of Yao Ming in this article. Oh wait.