Report: Rockets to sign 7’2″ Chinese center Zhou Qi to multiple-year contract

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A year ago, when the Chinese national team had a couple Rio Olympics tune-up games against the USA juggernaut, Zhou Qi looked overwhelmed in the first meeting, shooting 1-of-6 shooting for two points. But in the next showdown in Oakland, he seemed more comfortable and led China with 13 points and intimidated a couple USA drivers into the paint (the USA won both games very handily).

He didn’t look NBA ready then, but he looked like there was potential.

The Rockets are betting he’s more NBA ready now and will bring him over for next season, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Houston Rockets have agreed to a multi-year contract with 7-foot-2 Zhou Qi, league sources told ESPN. The final structure of the deal is still undergoing final touches, but Qi will join the Rockets for the 2017-’18 season, league sources said.

The Rockets — a franchise with ties to China thanks to the Yao Ming years — drafted Zhou with the 43rd pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. He is not only tall, he also has a nearly 7’8” wingspan, which helps his shot blocking. He’s got soft hands and a good shot and touch (he shot 76 percent on free throws in China two seasons ago and has flashed three-point range).

The questions are does he have the athleticism and strength to play in the NBA? He’s a project, but one the Rockets can afford to take on.

This signing will be huge in China, where Zhou Qi is seen as the next hope for that basketball-mad nation in the NBA. He’s not going to be Yao Ming, but can he be more than Jianlian Yi?