But what if the guard they seek is sitting on the bench right now?
Over the past four games, Max Christie has found himself back in the rotation, averaging 22.6 minutes of play, scoring 7.5 points and grabbing 4.5 rebounds.
While these numbers may not jump off the screen, a closer look shows what Christie has been doing to contribute to the team and if he should continue to get an increased role.
Looking at the film over the past four games, the one thing that stands out is Christie's defense.
He's all over the place and excels in all aspects of that side of the game. He's so much better defensively off-ball this season than in his rookie campaign. He can now stay on his defender while still keeping an eye on the ball and judges when to help or change positioning to jump into passing lanes to create a turnover.
He executed this to perfection against the Pelicans. While guarding CJ McCollum on the weak side, Christie remained ready to help in the post when Dyson Daniels started to drive, anticipated the pass coming and was able to steal the ball.
The Lakers have struggled to defend the three, allowing teams to shoot 36.7% on the season and the best way to avoid getting killed by the three is to not let the shot attempt go up to begin with. Christie prevents a corner three here, ends a possession and starts a fastbreak opportunity.
On the ball, Christie continues to handle any guard thrown his way. During this past slew of games, he's defended players such as McCollum, Duncan Robinson, and even a few moments against Ja Morant and Brandon Ingram.
You'll have to dig deep into the tape to find any errors in his defense. He communicates well, stays in front of his opponent and understands when to fight over a screen or drop back. When he does get beat off the dribble, he often recovers well and is able to contest.
Amidst all the negatives from last night, and there were plenty, really liked what I saw from Max Christie on D in the 2nd half— LAbound (@LAbound2) January 6, 2024
Christie stays attached with Kennard through the screen then beats him to the spot at the elbow
So much more effective defending secondary options pic.twitter.com/v7i2PwUnxn
In the Western Conference, you have an abundance of great ball-handling guards and if Christie can take on the challenge and win more than he loses, he not only deserves more playing time, he might be one of the best options Darvin Ham has available.
On the offensive side of the ball, Christie has work to be done. He struggles shooting from three, hitting 30% of his attempts on the season and shooting even worse during this four-game stretch at 23.5%.
On the plus side, he has shown an ability to attack the basket and finish strong in ways only the young and LeBron James can do. He posterized Bam Adebayo on a drive from the corner when Kevin Love ran him off the three-point line.
This team excels at points in the paint and while Christie isn't a sniper yet, he can add to that strength with his finishing at the rim and mid-range game.
Having Christie on the floor also gives the Lakers another ball-handler. While he is nowhere near as skillful as D'Angelo Russell or even Austin Reaves at orchestrating the offense, he holds his own well and can bring the ball upcourt and handle the pressure from defenders. This is something he's worked on since the summer.
Staying on the line -- breaking down Max's strength & handle.— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) August 31, 2023
Laker Film Room: Max Christie Levels Up pic.twitter.com/u52s7lfRDP
Max does well on pick and roll when he's the ball handler, which is good because ball screens are a notable component of the offense.
However, he struggles to be effective when he has to set the pick. His frame is small, and he seems hesitant to get physical and stand his ground. Instead, he widens his stance and uses his arms and elbows to generate the friction needed to get the switch or create a driving lane to the basket.
This stood out when he was screening for James. He struggled to execute the screen because he didn’t have the strength to force players to switch. To play on a LeBron team, you have to be able to work off-ball and complement him well. Christie still has some work to do on this aspect.
So, is Max Christie the guard the Lakers are looking for? Not yet.
He cannot produce at the level of players the Lakers are rumored to be interested in, but he has shown enough promise and production to justify being in the rotation. Over the last four games, he's gotten the seventh most minutes. He's earned the reps and has shown he can contribute to winning basketball when given the chance.
Christie won't solve everything right now, but he gives you a rotation player who doesn't make mistakes and is a net positive for the team. If he can improve that jumper over time, perhaps he can even move up some more in the rotation.
For now, he’s proven he’s deserving of the time he’s gotten recently and needs to stay in the lineup for his own development and to give the Lakers the best chance to win now.
You can follow Edwin on Twitter at @ECreates88.