BOSTON -- With eight picks in next month’s NBA draft there’s a very good chance the Celtics will go the draft-and-stash route with a couple of international players, with the goal being for them to stay overseas and grow their game.
That makes China’s Zhou Qi (pronounced Joe Chee), who was in town last week for a workout with the Celtics, a legitimate target with one of Boston’s three, first-round picks.
Selecting Zhou with the No. 3 overall pick is not going to happen. And selecting a player to keep tucked away with the 16th pick is a bit of a stretch, too.
But taking Zhou at No. 23 is definitely something the Celtics will consider. Boston also has five second-round picks, but league executives contacted this weekend by CSNNE.com anticipate he will be taken in the latter stages of the first round.
While little is known about Zhou in the United States, the Celtics have had him on their radar for quite some time.
“We’ve known about him for a couple of years,” said Austin Ainge, Boston’s director of player personnel. “He’s probably the third- or fourth-most recognized name in Chinese basketball.
Indeed, Zhou is trying to follow a path towards the NBA that was paved by Chinese big men Yao Ming and Yi Jianlian, who were both high lottery picks (Yao was the No. 1 overall pick for Houston in 2002 while Yi was selected with the sixth overall pick in 2007 by Milwaukee).
Zhou’s stock isn’t quite that high, but there’s no mistaking he's a player that several teams with first-round picks are intrigued by.
At 7-2 1/4, Zhou’s wingspan at the NBA combine earlier this month measured an astounding 7-7 3/4. The only other player whose wingspan was greater than that at the NBA combine was Utah’s Rudy Gobert (7-8 1/2). Zhou has a standing reach of 9-4 1/2 and can touch the rim on his tippy toes.
However, Zhao’s lithe frame (he weighs 218.2 pounds, which is a little more than 10 pounds more than he weighed a few months ago) is indeed reason for some teams to give serious thought to keeping him overseas to fill out his frame for another year or two.
Despite being so skinny, teams have raved about his surprisingly nimble movement as well as his skill level.
During the combine earlier this month in Chicago, Zhou showed some his deft shooting touch by draining 14-of-25 3s taken from five different points on the floor. In addition to his scoring, Zhou is a much more athletic big man that most might expect, which can be seen in his maximum vertical leap measuring out at 31 1/2 inches.
Think about this:
The guy can practically touch the rim without jumping, and then you top that off with a vertical leap of more than 30 inches?
Boston was just one of a handful of teams the 20-year-old decided to work out for leading up to next month’s draft.
“It was great to have him in,” Ainge said.
The Suns were another. During his workout with Phoenix, the Suns pitted him against Eric Jacobsen of Arizona State. They were looking to see how Zhou handled himself against Jacobsen, who is a 6-10, 240-pound center.
“Usually my hand is up by the ball, but I was getting up to his face and the ball was, way up there,” Jacobsen told the Arizona Republic.
Suns assistant general manager Pat Connelly was eager to get an up-close look at how Zhou handled himself against a strong center like Jacobsen.
“You can see that stuff on tape, but it’s always good to see a guy come in and get an appreciation for how a guy takes the contact,” Connelly told the Republic. “Which will be important for him going forward. He did well.”