By Lukas Peng
Zhou Qi was able to showcase his skillset and potential to various NBA scouts in attendance during the 2014-15 CBA season in his rookie campaign. The much anticipated professional debut of Zhou Qi ended in a disappointing season in which his team, Xinjiang Flying Tigers, was considered title contenders and were not even able to make the playoffs. However for his draft stock Zhou Qi did everything to prove that he should be given consideration as a 1st round pick in future years. He will sign with Nike in the coming days which will give him added exposure as he will be expected to play in the Nike Hoop Summit in early April and be able to showcase his unique combination of skill, size, length and basketball IQ to NBA scouts and executives. He leads the CBA with 3.3 blocks a game and uses his length to get all sorts of deflections and is a nightmare for opponents trying to get shots off. His defensive presence surpasses that of fellow countrymen,Wang Zhelin, Yi Jianlian, and even Yao Ming at the age of 18. He has a great understanding of the game and rarely makes bad plays.
This season he mainly played off the ball as Andray Blatche was the focal point of the Xinjiang offense. He is great at finding passing gaps and finishes well with his incredible length. Having played the guard position growing up, he handles the ball exceptionally well for his size and is an above average passer. He has great touch around the rim and great range as he can stretch the floor, although he lacks much lift on his shot and takes time setting up his shot. His biggest weakness is obviously his thin frame and inability to gain weight over the years, although with good nutrition and proper training he should be able to add weight, but staying in China will hurt his progress in this department. He is not as soft as his frame suggests as he can hold his own in the CBA, but better competition and tougher match ups will give him problems as he’s proven to have trouble guarding more talented players. With Xinjiang not making the playoffs, Zhou Qi will be training in the United States, looking to improve each day. Overall a unique player with an incredibly high ceiling that NBA teams can’t ignore anymore.
Having finished his 3rd season, Wang Zhelin has consistently been a force in the CBA. His game and stats have been very consistent over the years but have not made much progress. Although only 21 years of age, his ceiling looks to be low as he has not made much progress in any department. In terms of being a NBA prospect, Wang Zhelin has the size and skillset to prove himself a worthy prospect but do not expect him to be a lock to be drafted.
Wang Zhelin showcases a repertoire of spin moves and pump fakes as he can be a dominant offensive force. He uses both hands and has great touch around the rim. A below the rim player but uses his off hand to shield defenders away, also very good at using the rim to protect the ball from shot blockers. Defensively he lacks the lateral quickness and instincts to be a high level help defender, but he does play hard and uses his strong body to get positioning. With the raise of Zhou Qi, Wang Zhelin’s stock is not higher than it was after his impressive performance during the NIKE summit in 2012. But other than Zhou Qi, Wang Zhelin is the only other real NBA draft prospect in China at the moment.
Yi Jianlian has proven himself in China even before he went to the NBA. Now that he is out of the NBA and back in the CBA, his dominance is felt even more. His game has matured over the years and he’s taken his game to another level. Dominating each and every night and regularly outplaying the opponent’s foreign player, Yi has established himself as a legend in the CBA. He is without a question a NBA caliber player and things holding him back could be mental weaknesses and difficulty to adjust to the NBA. He is a free agent after the 2014-15 season and could be another option for NBA teams in need of a big that can fill many roles. But at the age of 30 one has to wonder how attractive Yi would be to NBA teams now. But looking at all Chinese players in the CBA right now there is nobody that can match the dominance of Yi Jianlian.
Other Notable Draft Prospects: