The second-year player out of China had only appeared in one game this season, scoring two points in one minute. He had also been dealing with knee and ankle injuries this year that limited his opportunities for playing time.
He was listed as "probable" in Monday's injury report with a left ankle sprain, per Alykhan Bijani of the Athletic. Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle noted the significance of his injury status:
Jonathan Feigen @Jonathan_Feigen
Rockets waived center Zhou Qi today. Writing was on the wall when they moved him to probable yesterday. Had been out with sprained ankle. Players waived while hurt are still paid. He had a non-guaranteed contract. Well behind Hartenstein as a prospect. @ShamsCharania 1st on move.
Zhou was a second-round pick in 2016 and joined the Rockets during the 2017-18 season, playing 18 games while averaging 1.2 points and 1.2 rebounds per game.
The rest of his time was spent at the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, where he made 24 appearances last season and seven this year. He was averaging 11.9 points, 9.4 rebounds and 2.1 blocks per game at that level this season, showing some of the potential the team expected when he was first drafted.
At 7'1" with the ability to make outside shots and protect the rim, there is still a lot of upside with the 22-year-old.
However, the Rockets clearly couldn't wait any longer for him to stay healthy and develop and decided to clear his roster spot.
Zhou will now hope for another opportunity at the NBA level, although he will likely have other opportunities overseas if he can't land a new contract.