The 2021 NBA Draft includes a few potential No. 1 picks and a solid top-10 group.
From there, The Athletic’s John Hollinger believes there are about 20 to 23 players who can stick on NBA rosters for the long haul, just like any other year. After that, however, there are dice-rolls.
Tops among them, according to Hollinger’s latest big board, is Arizona State product Josh Christopher, who comes in No. 26 on the NBA analyst’s list of the top 70 prospects.
Hollinger sees what Christopher can become, even if the college tape did not show much of it on a consistent basis.
Christopher’s best defensive clips are fantastic, featuring really quick hands, but dig deeper and the fun stops. His motor often conks out after two slides, at which point he’ll just stop and reach for a steal. He also fouls like a madman, with 5.9 personals per 100 possessions – an insane rate for a guard.
Offensively, the potential is there if he tries going to the rim more and considers passing once in a while. His tape from Arizona State is all Kobe shots: He either jab steps toward his right and goes straight up for a contested J, or he takes five dribbles and shoots a pull-up after a right-to-left crossover. It’s like an automated sub-routine: He only goes into the shot after the cross to his left, he never really tries to get past his man, and once he dribbles he’s never passing.
Hollinger added that Christopher’s appearance in the NBA Draft Combine, which included 5-on-5 scrimmages, helped his status. It said something that the guard was both willing to compete and showed a little more in his game than his robotic tendencies at ASU.
All that said, Christopher need not look far to determine how he can best carve out a role on an NBA team.
Luguentz Dort came out of college at Arizona State after a single season. He entered the 2019 draft with physical similarities, although a different game, to Christopher.
While tunnel-vision plagued him at ASU as an offensive player, Dort didn’t take long to make an impact in the NBA after he went undrafted.
Signed with the Oklahoma City Thunder on a two-way deal his rookie year, Dort quickly established himself as one of the most unique and physical perimeter defenders in the NBA. This past season, he used that success to transform into a capable offensive presence. In 52 games, all starts, he averaged 14 points and 1.7 assists per game.
Christopher has a similar NBA-ready body and the physical traits to stick with elite ball-handlers and disrupt them with his thick frame.
Offensively, he can use size and his leaping ability to better attack the rim.
He averaged 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.5 steals as a freshman, shooting 43% overall and 31% on nearly four triples attempted per game. Now it’s about maturing his decision-making to his strengths so those numbers get more efficient.
Christopher has the tools that can earn him time to gain a better feel for how to fit his unique offensive game into the NBA. Finding early success on the defensive end will be key in doing so.