Where Josh Christopher Needs to Improve
Like most rookies, Josh Christopher needs to improve everywhere. It’s no secret, but outside of generational players, most 19-year-olds kind of suck at everything in the NBA. However, there are two key areas where if he improves, he could find himself making a major impact.
The Rockets have consistently hyped Christopher’s defensive potential and for good reason. His physical attributes make him easy to dream on. He has good size for his position, great length, and the type of frame that should allow him to remain agile while improving his strength.
The franchise keeps comparing him to Jrue Holiday, which is as ridiculous as it is ambitious. Holiday, over the past decade, has been maybe the best defender at his position. However, setting lofty goals can be a good thing, and if Christopher only becomes 80% of the defender that Holiday is, then he’ll still be one tough defender to crack.
Judging Christopher’s defensive impact as a rookie is difficult. Defense is a team endeavor, and he spent most of his minutes playing next to Kenyon Martin Jr and Alperen Sengun, two young players who are also defensively challenged at this stage of their careers.
The good news is that of players to feature for more than 300 minutes, he led the team in steal rate at 2.3%, which is a fraction of a percent behind Jrue Holiday and would be a top-20 mark if he played enough minutes to qualify for the leaderboard.
The defensive potential is there, and if Christopher can go from a promising young player to a legit ball stopper, his role and reputation should grow quickly.
While improving 3-point shooting needs to be a priority, how Christopher develops as a passer could very well determine his ultimate upside. Because it’s unlikely that he will ever develop into a go-to scorer, his ability to set teammates up will be the skill that determines how large a share of the offense he can handle.
His assist (17.3%) and turnover percentages (17.2%) were nearly identical in his rookie season, and his 150 assists came with 114 turnovers. For a wing or frontcourt player, those are acceptable levels of playmaking and ball security, but for a player who ideally will be a starting point guard, it leaves a lot to be desired.
Christopher showed flashes in transition as a passer, but point guards are judged by their abilities in the halfcourt. The tools are there for him to be an above-average passer, but as a rookie, he was featured more as an off-ball option.