Big Devil King Zhou Qi: Draft and Stash or Bust For Phoenix Suns in 2016 NBA Draft?

Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports /

Zhou Qi not only has the best wingspan of any player in the 2016 NBA Draft, he also has the best nickname.

Qi is nicknamedThe Big Devil King” (occasionally cited as just “The Big Devil”), and his 7′ 1.25″ frame (without shoes) with a 7′ 7.75″ wingspan help explain the nickname. Draft Express currently has him at number 26, and there seems to be hype building around the unique talent.

Zhou Qi was able to use that length to lead the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) in blocks by a significant margin. He was the only player to average more than 2 blocks per game, totaling 3.1 blocks per game.

The averages (from RealGM) for Zhou Qi look fantastic: 15.8 points, 9.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.1 steals, 3.2 blocks and shooting percentages of .603 percent from the field, .600 percent from three (on just 15 attempts), and .758 percent from the free throw line.

If Zhou Qi was putting up those numbers in the Euroleague, he would be a clear star. In the Chinese Basketball Association, not so much. That league produces some ridiculous stats – for example, the leading scorer in the league is Jonathan Gibson at 42 points a game. Gibson is a player that went undrafted in the 2010 NBA draft and has 11 summer league games and 0 regular season games of NBA experience.

The CBA is also a playground for NBA draft busts. Yi Jianlian, the 6th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft, averaged 26.4 points and 9.2 rebounds last season. Michael Beasley, the 2nd overall pick of the 2008 NBA draft, averaged 31.9 points and 13.2 rebounds per game.

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So which one is Zhou Qi? He certainly isn’t comparable to Michael Beasley, a completely different player physically (and hopefully mentally). It is the Yi Jianlian comparisons that might worry teams.

Zhou Qi’s 2015-16 season was more efficient than any season Yi Jianlian has had in the CBA, with significantly more points per shot. Jianlian already has played against NBA players, and is much older (and therefore more physically developed, in theory). Zhou Qi’s production at such a young age (still 20 years old) is a huge positive.

If you’re looking for comparisons outside of the CBA, there aren’t many events that both players competed in. There is one: the FIBA Asia Championship. Zhou Qi averaged 9.9 points, 6 rebounds and 2 blocks per game in just under 19 minutes per game (9 games played) at the 2015 championships. He was 19 at the time.

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Yi Jianlian has played in 4 FIBA Asia Championships, including the 2015 tourney, where he averaged 16.7 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 1.2 blocks in approximately 27 minutes per game. He was 27 at the time.

Per 36 minutes, Zhou Qi averaged approximately 19.3 points,11.7 rebounds, and 3.9 blocks. Yi Jianlian averaged approximately 22.3 points, 11.7 rebounds, and 1.6 blocks per 36 minutes. Zhou Qi is putting up similar production (plus way more blocks), despite being 7 years younger.

The numbers indicate Zhou Qi is a better player given his age, but there is not enough to confidently say Qi is a completely different player. The different between Zhou Qi and Yi Jianlian, at this point, is the cost to acquire them.

Yi Jianlian cost the 6th overall pick, while Zhou Qi should just cost a late first round pick, or even an early 2nd. At that price, the Phoenix Suns should select Qi, knowing he may be 3 seasons away from contributing to a NBA team. That timeline still fits well with the Suns rebuilding process, and would be right when Tyson Chandler’s current contract expires. 

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Paul Coro reported that the Phoenix Suns are just one of four teams to get a private workout with Zhou Qi, before he has to return back to China to prepare with the national team for the upcoming summer olympics.

Unfortunately, if the Suns do want to draft Zhou Qi, there will be competition. One of the other teams that Qi worked out for, the Boston Celtics, have three first round picks and five second round picks. If they want Qi, they are going to be in a great position to consolidate those picks and move up in the draft. The Celtics also draft 23rd in the first round, which may be a bit early for Qi, but would not be an unreasonable stretch.

All CBA stats via unless otherwise noted.