When the Lakers selected Max Christie 35th overall in the 2022 NBA Draft, he was reportedly a no-brainer unanimous pick by the scouting department spearheaded by assistant general manager and co-owner Jesse Buss. The Michigan State product was on Buss’ radar as early as 2016 as he felt that Christie embodied the skillset that would thrive in the NBA today.
However, by drafting the 19-year-old, there was a catch: They were banking on a raw prospect that was miles away from being an instant contributor to this season’s Lakers team. True enough, this year was more about development for Christie who successfully spent most of his time playing in the G-League for the South Bay Lakers.
Christie is still regarded as a long-term project, but one the Lakers hope will break out and eventually be an integral piece for them soon enough. The rookie’s first season in the pros was dedicated to getting as many on-ball reps as he could, polishing the physical and mental aspects of his game and learning more about his potential role on the team moving forward. Given how the Lakers’ season transpired, It was one hell of a learning experience for the youngblood.
How Was Their Season?
Christie’s preseason performance in the 2022 Summer League left a lot to be desired and was further proof that the rookie had to get in the lab to both work on his game and lift weights. While he showed glimpses of his potential, it was clear that it was going to be a huge ask for Christie to adjust as quickly as Austin Reaves did last season.
Christie was active in 41 regular season games this season, played as a starter in three of those, and was in and out of the lineup because he was regularly assigned to the G-League — where he suited up 13 times and averaged 14.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game in 29.1 minutes.
Christie helped the South Bay Lakers make a Conference Quarterfinals appearance, where they lost to the Rio Grande Valley Vipers (Houston Rockets G-League affiliate).
In the parent team, Christie averaged just 3.1 points and 1.8 rebounds in 12.5 minutes per game. However, there were two memorable games in particular where he stood out specifically and ironically against the Denver Nuggets this season. One in December where the rookie swung the game by hitting two crucial 3-pointers that helped the Lakers get past the Nuggets at home. The second one was when Christie produced his career-high 14 points in a losing effort on the road against the same team.
In the Playoffs, the rookie played in nine games but all of which were during garbage time. At the very least though, Christie got to experience being a sponge on a team that made it as far as the Western Conference Finals. As he reiterated in his exit interview, one of the biggest learning experiences for him this season was observing how LeBron James approached the game and how James religiously takes good care of his body, which Christie often said he plans to incorporate in his career moving forward.
As mentioned above, this season was basically all about development for the Lakers’ 35th pick, and while we’ll only really be able to see his progress on the court next season, it seems his hard work behind the scenes has already paid off. He’s reportedly already put on 10 pounds of muscle and now that the offseason is here, Christie seems determined to apply what he learned in the last 11 months in order to work his way to the rotation next season.
Should the Lakers Bring Him Back?
Yes and this is a no-brainer. The Lakers seem to have a lot of belief in Christie, as they even went as far as deeming him untouchable when they were shopping for Kyrie Irving at the trade deadline. He’s also still under his rookie contract, so now the ball is on his court to prove why he truly deserves to be in the rotation next season. Christie will get the opportunity to showcase his development in this year’s Summer League up to the beginning of training camp next season.
Do you think they will return?
The only scenario where Christie isn’t on the purple and gold next season is if the Lakers include him in a trade for a third star or a popular name in the market. Otherwise, there’s certainly going to be a role for him (which again, he’ll have to earn and work hard for) on the team next season — especially if the Lakers can’t keep all their guards like Reaves, Troy Brown Jr., Dennis Schroder, Malik Beasley, and D’Angelo Russell.
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