Houston Rockets guard Josh Christopher, who was taken at No. 24 overall in the first round of the 2021 NBA draft, already has a player in mind as he seeks to develop his game at the Las Vegas Summer League.
“Raf told me come be our Jrue Holiday, before I even got drafted,” Christopher told Kelly Iko of The Athletic. Raf is a reference to Rockets general manager Rafael Stone, who made the final draft decisions.
“He was like, ‘Yeah, I can see you being like a Jrue Holiday.’ So, just taking that, and then applying it,” Christopher told Iko.
Holiday, of course, has earned significant praise in recent weeks after helping lead his Milwaukee Bucks to the 2021 NBA title and then playing a key role on the U.S. men’s basketball national team, which won gold at the recently completed Tokyo Olympics.
In particular, Holiday has drawn attention for being a two-way force — and when Iko asked Christopher if there was an NBA player he was watching closely on the defensive end, Holiday was his answer.
Jrue Holiday’s a great offensive player, but he’s also a defensive player. So without having to be strictly a defensive player, I can still have that freedom of being offensive, but at the same time, it’s just playing basketball. You could take pride in defense just as much as offense. Stopping guys, it’s just as fun as putting the ball in the basket to me.
“They told me to come strap up. Somebody has to be that one to stop guys on the floor — defense wins championships. So I’ll take pride in that.”
— Kelly Iko (@KellyIkoNBA) August 10, 2021
Christopher had 13 points, 5 rebounds, and 4 assists in Houston’s opening summer league victory on Sunday, but the 6-foot-5 guard earned the most attention for his aggressive on-ball defense.
When asked postgame about the 19-year-old, summer league head coach Will Weaver immediately offered strong praise.
His communication and intensity, and will to compete, is the best maybe I’ve ever seen. We are really excited about what his potential is, in all those different areas. Picking up the ball, making people uncomfortable, creating deflections … always being in the right spot, defensively, and ready to help a teammate.
Christopher and the Rockets will look to build on that performance in their second summer league matchup, which takes place Tuesday night at 8:00 p.m. Central. With Houston facing off against Detroit, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if Christopher gets at least a few possessions with the opportunity to guard No. 1 overall draft pick Cade Cunningham.