The new Yao Ming?: Chinese ace Zhou Qi follows in legend’s giant footsteps as he is picked by Houston Rockets in NBA draft

The Rockets added the Chinese centre in the second round of the NBA draft

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2016, 1:07pm
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2016, 2:00pm

The Houston Rockets added Chinese centre Zhou Qi in the second round of the NBA draft on Thursday night.

The 7-foot-2 Zhou was selected 43rd on a night where Houston didn’t have a first-round pick because of a past trade, and is among the largest players to ever play the game competitively.

His measurements at the NBA Draft Combine were the second best on record.

The Rockets will need some depth at centre with Dwight Howard likely to opt out of the last year of his contract and become a free agent this summer. But draft analyses of Zhou suggest it would be unlikely for him to be ready to contribute in a meaningful way in his rookie season.

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The 20-year-old Zhou, who played in the CBA last season, averaged 16 points per game, on 60 per cent shooting overall, including 60 per cent from beyond the arc. His free throw shooting percentage was an impressive 78 per cent.

Zhou is thought to have more range than Yao Ming did. And has a massive 7-foot-8 wingspan. He’s known for jumping and shot blocking, but is considered to be too lightweight at the moment because of his skinny frame weighing in at just 218 pounds.

The Rockets are said to be considering keeping him in China for the upcoming season with an eye on bringing him over for the 2017-18 season after another year developing in the CBA.

He joins a team that drafted Yao first overall in 2002 and general manager Daryl Morey said that Yao was on a conference call on Thursday night to help translate and welcome Zhou to the team.

“He has as high an upside as anyone in the draft,” Morey said. “He’s a skilled, high basketball IQ player who can shoot the ball, rebound the ball, block shots. Very mobile for his size.”

Additional reporting by Associated Press