From Clint Capela to Kevin Porter Jr, the Houston Rockets have helped young players reach their NBA potential with the assistance of their G-League affiliated team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers. And after drafting Josh Christopher with their final pick (No. 24th overall) of the 2021 NBA Draft, the Rockets could once again prove why their G-League program is superior in comparison to its contemporaries.
It’s not that Christopher isn’t ready to play on an NBA level. After all, the 11 points he scored in the fourth quarter helped lead the Rockets to a 125-119 preseason win over the Washington Wizards. But Christopher’s talents could greatly benefit from spending a season (or at least part of one) playing with the Vipers.
In the words of head coach Mahmoud Abdelfattah, “use the G-League as an opportunity to get your feet wet.”
Whether it was scoring a college career-high 28 points for the Arizona State Sun Devils or picking the pockets of Cade Cuningham during Summer League, Christopher has shown the promise of someone who can evolve into one of the league’s best two-way players.
The most significant part of Christopher’s game is his talents as a perimeter defender. He averaged 1.5 steals during his lone season at Arizona State, and his long arms can contest nearly every shot from the opposing team’s player.
During the five-game Las Vegas Summer League, Christopher’s best contributions came on defense after recording a 101.1 defensive net rating.
Offensively, the Rockets have a player who isn’t afraid to attack his opponents downhill. Christopher has the quickness to bypass his defenders with an explosive first step to score an easy layup or dunk. Christopher’s aggressive athleticism will make him a tough assignment for defenders to prevent from scoring at the basket, as he has already proven he can finish at the rim despite the contact.
The biggest question surrounding Christopher ahead of his rookie season is his shooting. He shot 30.5 percent from behind the arc during his freshman year, and potential struggles shooting the three-ball could result in Christopher finding it difficult to obtain consistent minutes as a rookie.
Since the start of training camp, Stephen Silas has raved about the enhancement Christopher has made to his long-range shooting. During the preseason victory against the Wizards, Christopher connected on all three of his attempts from behind the arc, but his primary issue has been staying consistent. He followed that up by going 0-4 from deep against the Miami Heat.
However, in terms of his shooting, Christopher has established himself as a mid-range assassin, as he shot 55.5 percent from inside the arc in Las Vegas amid averaging 16.8 points per game.
As the old saying goes, “experience is the best teacher.” And for Christopher, the most significant objective in 2022 will be gaining the appropriate amount of playing time to develop into the assuring player that led the Rockets to a fourth-quarter comeback against the Wizards.
The best way for Christopher to ensure his potential in the NBA is to play a portion of his rookie year season inside the Bert Ogden Arena as a Viper.