Rockets select Onuaku and Zhou in 2nd round of NBA draft
HOUSTON (AP) The Houston Rockets added a pair of big men in the second round of the NBA draft on Thursday night in Louisville's Chinanu Onuaku and Chinese center Zhou Qi.
The 6-foot-10 Onuaku was selected 37th overall and Zhou was selected 43rd on a night where Houston didn't have a first-round pick because of a past trade.
The Rockets will need some depth at center 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 these players indicate that it would be unlikely for them to be ready to contribute in meaningful ways as rookies.
''We look at the draft as sort of a multi-year thing and most of our guys that we draft don't contribute in Year 1,'' general manager Daryl Morey said. ''We hope they surprise us, but usually there's a little time in the D-league to get used to the NBA and the systems.''
Even though Howard hasn't officially opted out, Onuaku mentioned Howard's likely departure and said he's excited about getting a chance to take his position.
The 19-year-old Onuaku, who played two seasons at Louisville, averaged 9.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and two blocks a game last season to earn a spot on the All-ACC Defensive team.
There was some concern about his health after he had a procedure to fix a heart rhythm issue in May after it was detected during physicals at the NBA combine. The condition is called Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome and the surgery to fix the problem has been described as minor.
Onuaku said it took him about two to three weeks to recover from the procedure.
''I'm great,'' he said. ''It's no problem at all.''
During his career at Louisville, Onuaku sometimes struggled with fatigue and got winded during games. He's noticed a change since the surgery.
''I feel like I have more energy on the basketball court,'' he said.
Onuaku began shooting free throws underhanded this season at the suggestion of Louisville coach Rick Pitino and improved his free throw percentage from 46.7 percent to 58.9.
''It shows he's the most compliant kid in the history of college basketball because I bet coach Pitino has told about 500 kids to do that and he's the first one that said, `OK, I'm going to try it,''' Morey said with a laugh.
Onuaku thinks to move reflects well on his character as a player.
''I think it told them that I'm a coachable person and whatever I need to get better at the game of basketball I'm going to do it,'' he said.
Zhou comes to the NBA after a two-year career with the Xinjiang Flying Tigers in the Chinese Basketball Association. He joins a team that drafted Yao Ming first overall in 2002 and Morey said that Yao was on a conference call Thursday night to help translate and welcome Zhou to the team.
He averaged 15.1 points and 8.6 rebounds in his two seasons with the Flying Tigers. He also averaged 3.3 and 3.2 blocks in his two seasons there to lead the CBA.
''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.''
The 20-year-old Zhou is 7-2 and has a wingspan of almost 7-8, but he'll need to add some weight to compete in the NBA since he weighs just 210 pounds. Zhou is a rare 7-footer with outside shooting ability. He has a solid mid-ranger jumper and began to hone his 3-point shooting skills this season when he made nine of 15 from long-range after sinking just one of 10 as a rookie.