As the young Houston Rockets (1-6) make their way through this season, coach Stephen Silas has yet to give young guard Josh Christopher a steady spot in the rotation.
The decision from Silas has been very surprising thus far, as the Rockets have made it clear that their main goal through their rebuild is to prioritize development.
At just 20 years old, Christopher has repeatedly shown that he could potentially become a great player one day and is someone the franchise should value as a key part of the team’s young core.
Christopher, who the Rockets selected with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 draft, is averaging just over seven minutes a game and has only seen double-digit minutes in three of the team’s seven games. As far as what he’s done with the little opportunity this season, Christopher put forth a solid performance in Houston’s season opener against the Atlanta Hawks, tallying 6 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in just 13 minutes.
Another good performance came from the young guard on Sunday against the Phoenix Suns. When given 13 minutes again, primarily due to Eric Gordon sitting out, Christopher recorded 7 points and 5 rebounds. Overall, Christopher has played well almost every time he’s been given an opportunity, making Silas’ decision not to make him a regular part of the rotation confusing.
When given actual minutes, Christopher almost always plays with energy, diving for loose balls, crashing the glass and embracing the challenge of guarding some of the league’s top opposing guards. On the offensive end, he’s shown he can be an effective scorer in the midrange area and when attacking the basket. There is no ceiling for the type of player Christopher can become, which makes him such an intriguing player.
Christopher stands at 6’4”, with a sturdy frame and the ability to jump out of the gym. He’s already shown that he can impact the game on both ends, and his combination of scoring and energy on the defensive end gives him a great chance to potentially become a great two-way player.
Rockets’ General Manager Rafael Stone even compared Christopher to Milwaukee Bucks’ Jrue Holiday, one of the league’s top point guards and two-way players in the entire NBA. There is no denying that Christopher possesses the talent to be more than an average player, but if the Rockets continue to keep him on the bench, he will never be able to give the franchise what he is more than capable of providing.
However, last season is where Christopher really showed that he belongs in the rotation.
Most Rockets fans can recall when many of the team’s young players played well in the season’s final stretch. Christopher was one of them. In his last 10 games where he averaged just over 23.5 minutes per game, Christopher averaged 12.3 points, 2.7 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. The now second-year guard finished his rookie season on a solid note and showed real flashes of what he could be in the NBA; therefore, it’s time for the Rockets to make Christopher a real part of the team’s rotation.
Development and growth. Those are two things that Stone and the rest of the franchise have been very adamant about regarding the franchise’s rebuild since they decided to go in a different direction and trade James Harden. Unfortunately, by not giving Christopher any real opportunities this season, the team is essentially going away from the two things the front office wants to prioritize.
Houston spent a first-round pick on Christopher back in 2021, and the front office has since then always mentioned how much they value him as a part of the young core. Yet Silas’ current rotation has led to Christopher finding himself buried behind guys like Dashien Nix and Garrison Matthews, which is a poor decision to continue to make.
Matthews provides three-point shooting, which any NBA team will always value. However, Christopher has much more room for growth than Matthews and certainly gives the team a much higher ceiling. It’s not that Matthews shouldn’t get any playing time, but Christopher should not be the one to lose minutes and opportunities.
Dashien Nix, another young guard who has taken some minutes from Christopher, has struggled this season with running the offense and scoring efficiently. Nix is another player that the front office has spoken highly of; however, he was an undrafted signing who first spent time in the G-League, compared to Christopher, who was a first-round selection. That should cement Christopher ahead of Nix and Matthews in the pecking order.
It cannot be ignored that managing a roster that includes a large deal of young talent like Houston’s is certainly a difficult task. Yet when you truly look at the type of player Christopher could one day be, and what he’s done in his young career thus far, there is nothing to support the current rotational decision that Silas continues to make regarding Christopher.