NBA Draft

SLAM x Panini Rookie Spotlight: Rockets’ Josh Christopher

It seems like just yesterday that we were following Josh Christopher around Lakewood, California—around the neighborhood and the high school (Mayfair) where he rose to prominence. 

Back then, in 2019, Mayfair head coach Tony Davis said this about Christopher: “He’s definitely very charismatic, and as a basketball player he’s always had a level of confidence that is rare. I think that’s one thing that helps separate him—he has an undying belief of his abilities and you don’t see that in teenagers.”

He has an undying belief in his abilities. Spend any time around Christopher and that becomes obvious. The extremely talented guard also just oozes confidence. It made Davis a believer. It made SLAM a believer. It made anyone paying attention to high school hoops a believer. 

At 6-3, with impressive athleticism, versatility and playmaking skills, Christopher became a five-star recruit and top-12 prospect in his class. As he told SLAM in 2019, when he was on the cover of the magazine alongside fellow HS superstars Jalen Green and Sharife Cooper, he also possesses the hunger to be great. “I think people don’t realize how much I love basketball,” he said. “I think that they think I’m using basketball as a way to do other things and not because I like the game. They don’t see—I put in a lot of work. I put in a whole lot of work.

“I watch basketball. I know basketball. Basketball is my life.”

Christopher spent one season at Arizona State (he was the highest-rated commit in school history), averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals per game. The Rockets took him with the 24th overall pick in the 2021 Draft, where they also got Green, Alperen Sengun and Usman Garuba. Christopher played sparingly through the first few months of the season, spending some time in the G League with the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, averaging 22 points, 6.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 2.0 steals in three appearances.

In mid-December, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas started to give him more minutes, and Christopher started to show flashes of his potential: 18 points on 7/7 from the field and 4/4 from three in a win over the Nets; 17 points and 4 assists against the Cavaliers; 14 points and 3 steals against the Lakers. His perimeter shooting has been up and down, but the Cali native has always been able to find ways to score. He attacks the rim fearlessly, pulls up for little midrange jumpers in the paint and pushes it in transition. His shiftiness and handles make him a tough cover one-on-one. He likes to put on a show (see here). And of course, he isn’t shy. 

He has an undying belief in his abilities.

The city of Houston is learning more and more about those abilities. Silas is looking toward the future and unleashing his rookies. Christopher is averaging 9.9 points on 46 percent shooting from the field so far in March. He notched double figures in four straight outings, including a 21-point performance (in just 22 minutes) in an overtime victory over the Lakers last Wednesday. He also filled the stat sheet when the Rockets visited the Heat on March 7: 16 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 blocks and a steal. 

We recently spent an “off-day” with Christopher. What we learned is that he basically has to be forced to take them. “Honestly, I’m so happy to be a rookie and play basketball—when I’m just in the crib bored, I want to get in the gym,” he told us. “So our coaching staff threatened to take all of my shoes out of my locker last night because I said I was coming back to the gym. Days off are cool but I like being in the gym. So days off—I’m happy to have them, but I could do without them, too.”

As he told USA Today in February, “I am all about results. You can’t get results if you are not putting the work in. When your work pays off, it makes me want to do more, honestly. I am addicted to getting better. I just have to keep working.” 

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