Vecenie’s NBA mock draft: ASU’s Josh Christopher lands with Suns

Mar 16, 2021, 1:27 PM

Arizona State guard Josh Christopher (13) dunks over Arizona forward Ira Lee (11) during the second...

Arizona State guard Josh Christopher (13) dunks over Arizona forward Ira Lee (11) during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, Monday, Jan. 25, 2021, in Tucson, Ariz. Arizona won 80-67. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

(AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)

Josh Christopher’s freshman year, which is expected to be his lone college season, didn’t advance his NBA Draft stock.

If anything, it muddled the evaluation process even more.

Not only did his Arizona State Sun Devils fall short of expectations, but the highest-ranked recruit to ever suit up for ASU didn’t finish the year healthy.

When he was available, Christopher’s play was hot-and-cold.

He entered the year as a sure lottery pick but now could end up sliding to the bottom of the first round, and that’s why The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie could see him landing with the Phoenix Suns.

With Phoenix holding the second-best record in the NBA as of Tuesday, Vecenie in his latest mock draft has the Suns selecting Christopher at the No. 29 pick.

Christopher is one of the toughest players to assess in this class. On paper, he has been a pretty big disappointment this season, and evaluators wonder how this style of basketball is going to work at the next level. He’s allergic to passing the ball, has never really been much of a high-volume 3-point shooter and hasn’t ever really made shots at a super high clip. He’s also not exactly an elite athlete. And yet, when you watch the tape, you do see how he’s going to make it work.

Christopher appeared in 15 games during an uneven season for ASU, averaging 14.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 1.4 assists.

At 6-foot-5 with an NBA-ready 215-pound frame, he’s got the build and enough athletic pop to hold up in the league.

Christopher had flashes as an aware defender and showed anticipation to average 1.5 steals per game. He used his body well.

Though he’s raw, there was promise from an effort perspective.

Finding an offensive niche will be more difficult, as Vecenie says, and it’s odd to say that about a high-profile prospect who joined the Sun Devils with the reputation of a scorer.

Christopher shot 43% and hit 31% from deep, and maybe the efficiency creeps up in the right situation as an NBA player. Surely, the spacing should help him out, as Christopher can use his physicality to get to the free throw stripe — he hit 80% of his shots there. He’s got enough stuff to get off shots at all three levels, and there’s value in that even if the mid-range game wasn’t efficient this past season in college.

Writes Vecenie:

He gets separation from players and will be a real weapon with just slight improvement as a shooter. Defensively, he has some real tools in the backcourt. He’s one of the many polarizing prospects evaluators are interested in diving deeper into this offseason. His range is wide entering the pre-draft process, and it would behoove him to take it very seriously.

Christopher’s profile, as of now, does not align with a team like the Suns, who down the road need a lead guard and already have wings who better complement star Devin Booker.

But if Christopher in the draft process can convince teams he’s a more well-rounded teammate and a hard worker, then his skillset falling to the bottom of the first round would be something teams like Phoenix would at least think about.

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Vecenie’s NBA mock draft: ASU’s Josh Christopher lands with Suns