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Josh Christopher starting to play like a lottery pick

The rookie was drafted at 24, but his play of late shows he was undervalued this past summer.

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NBA: New Orleans Pelicans at Houston Rockets Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

We all know by now that the Houston Rockets had a busy draft night this past July. The Rockets started the night with three first-round picks and snagged a fourth mid-draft after trading for the 16th pick, which turned into Alperen Sengun. They also drafted Jalen Green at second overall and Usman Garuba at 23.

One player was kind of an afterthought and just seen as Jalen Green's friend instead of a potential difference-maker, and that was Josh Christopher with Houston’s final pick of the round at number 24.

Talent has never been a question for Christopher, however. He was a five-star recruit coming out of high school and was seen as a potential lottery pick at the beginning of the college year.

Christopher followed his brother to Arizona State to play for the Sun Devils. But unfortunately, the season didn't play out as Christopher wanted. First, injuries shortened his season, but more importantly, he had to try to mesh with a team that already had two ball-dominant guards, so Christopher was moved to small forward.

To make matters worse, the two-guards he was playing with in Remy Martin and Alonzo Verge, to quote Sam Vecenie, were "allergic to passing,". This, of course, took opportunities away from Christopher so much that he would take bad shots knowing the ball would never get back to him if he didn't take the opportunity.

This, along with some inconsistencies, caused Christopher to drop from lottery pick before the draft to late first-round or even second round in some mock drafts. So when the Rockets drafted Christopher at 24, most of the conversation was about who Jaygup was friends with (Jalen Green and Josh Christopher have been friends for a long time) instead of his game.

As we know now, the Rockets drafting him at 24 was an absolute steal, and the more Christopher plays, the more obvious it is that he should be treated as a lottery pick similar to Green.

Why Josh Christopher should be treated as a lottery pick

Staff photographer

To begin the year, Christopher bounced back and forth between the end of the bench, the G- League, and the Rockets. He would only play in garbage time to begin the year and then played three games for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. The three games may not seem like a lot, but he was the focal point of the offense and ran the point.

This gave Christopher the confidence he would need to take it to the next level once he got back with the Rockets. When he returned with the Rockets, he showed his playmaking skills and ability to get to the basket. As a result, he has slowly gained the coaching staff's trust and started to play earlier and earlier each game.

In his last 15 games, Christopher is averaging 10 points on over 52 percent shooting in only 19 minutes a game. In his last five games, he is averaging 12.8 points, 52.2 percent shooting, and 35 percent from beyond the arc. In the previous two weeks, Josh has been the Rockets’ best rookie and one of the most consistent players on the team.

The last two games have shown Christopher's entire game. He got to the basket and made a good amount of his three-pointers. In the previous two games, he shot 12-22 and 4-9 from the three-point line. The knock-on Christopher’s game coming out of college was his lack of shooting and discipline on defense. In his last five games, he is shooting 35 percent from beyond the arc and his defense, even though he can miss an assignment, has gotten better.

With all the improvements throughout the season and the obvious talent, Christopher has shown why he needs more playing time on the court and becomes even more of a focal point. But does this mean starting for the Rockets? It could possibly get to this point as the Rockets experiment with Alperen Sengun and Christian Wood, which could make Jae'Sean Tate starting at small forward more of a problem.

Tate does many things well on the court, but teams are making it a point not even to guard him on the perimeter. Christopher started the season slow from the three-point line, but as mentioned earlier, has improved his shooting throughout the year. However, the more the season plays out, the more obvious it is that Christopher is not your typical 24th overall pick. He has lottery talent and should be treated as such.