Even before the Lakers selected rookie Max Christie 35th overall in this year’s draft, their goal was to acquire a player who could be on the team long-term. The scouting department, spearheaded by Lakers assistant general manager and co-owner Jesse Buss, searched for a prospect who embodied the modern style of basketball, which meant someone who possessed superior shooting skills, size, athleticism, defense, and length.
It just so happened that Christie has been on Buss’ radar since 2019, when the Michigan State product stood out and earned a gold medal in the U16 USA team at the FIBA Americas. Three years later, the 19-year-old was touted as one of the best shooters in his draft class and presented solid two-way potential at the NBA Draft Combine that was too difficult for Buss to pass up on.
In a recent 1-on-1 interview with Lakers.com’s Mike Trudell, Buss revealed that the Lakers chose to gamble on Christie’s long-term development as they believe Christie would thrive under Darvin Ham’s system and visions for the present and future.
MT: To zoom in on this year’s pick, what was the thought process on draft day?
Buss: We were looking at two or three players, all who we had first round grades on. Max was highest on the board. But it was definitely close. There were a lot of talented guys left on the board. We felt comfortable with Max because getting him here with Coach Ham and his staff, Max is going to develop into a pretty good player, long term, for us.
Buss: From a talent perspective. There was a lot of room for growth with him. At a young age, he had a pretty good handle, a pretty good mid-range game. I think he can develop into a pretty good shooter at the NBA level. (Legendary scout and Lakers assistant coach/advisor) Bill Bertka always says, “He has true size for his position.” For a two guard with Christie’s height (6’6’’) and length, he really is true to his position. He’s not a guy that’s undersized. And we think he can guard multiple positions once he’s able to get stronger. He’s a good athlete – he tested as one of the best athletes at his position at the combine, vertically and agility-wise, and we think he has pretty good length. He can be a disruptor on that end.
Banking on a prospect that is miles away from being an instant contributor for this current Lakers roster was certainly a bold choice. But if Christie, who Rob Pelinka said was the unanimous draft choice by the front office, manages to be an instant key contributor and adjusts to the sport’s highest level as quickly as Austin Reaves did last season, then that would be a welcome sight and huge advantage for Los Angeles this season.
Christie is coming off a one-and-done season with the Spartans when he averaged 9.3 points on 31.7% 3-point shooting in 35 games. His handful of appearances in Summer League this past July left a lot to be desired as his inexperience and strength deficit in comparison to his peers were exposed. It also didn’t help that he only made 20% of his 3.1 3-point attempts per game last summer, which only proved that he’s still a developmental player in the making.
Max Christie's Points Per Possession by game between the California Classic & Vegas SL:— Cranjis McBasketball (@Tim_NBA) July 16, 2022
G1 (MIA): 0.38
G2 (GSW): 0.89
G3 (SAC): 0.56
G4 (PHX): 0.82
G5 (CHA): 0.83
G6 (LAC): 0.53
G7 (NOP): 1.20
His D has been a constant. We need more G7 type scoring efficiency from him!
Despite Christie’s uneventful summer league performance, he still showed glimpses of his potential. Aside from his well-advertised shooting, the rookie has the ability to impact the game with his length, defensive ability, and grit. His on-ball defense, smooth floater and crafty ball-handling skills, in particular, should allow him to stand out in due time.
Ultimately, Christie was chosen by the Lakers to be a long-term project, so getting high-level production from him this season is a bonus. Only time will tell if the rookie was worth risking the 35th pick for and if Jesse Buss once again struck gold in this year’s draft.