Max Christie’s one-and-done gamble on his talent paid off – from Michigan State to the NBA.
With new teammate LeBron James.
The former five-star prospect went to the Los Angeles Lakers in the second round with the 35th overall pick in Thursday night’s 2022 NBA draft.
“One thing that, for me, is going to be beneficial is going to be time,” Christie told reporters at the NBA combine in May. “I’m only 19 years old, and I think being in an NBA system for a few years is really going to help me grow and improve over time. A team that’s willing to do that, the resources that have been implemented and the things that have been done in recent years promotes that for me. ”
Christie is the Spartans’ first drafted player since Xavier Tillman and Cassius Winston both went in the 2020 second round – Memphis took Tillman with the 35th pick that year. Coach Tom Izzo has not had a player taken in the first round since Jaren Jackson Jr. in 2018.
Moments after the pick was announced, former MSU and current Golden State Warriors star Draymond Green pointed out his draft night 10 years ago. Like Christie and Tillman, he was also the 35th pick, in the 2012 draft.
“Another 35th pick from Michigan State,” Green tweeted. “History says he’s going to be an All-Star.”
Christie’s lone season as a Spartan was a mercurial one. The 6-foot-6 shooting guard started all 35 games he played, missing one against High Point on Dec. 29 due to COVID-19, and posted solid all-around numbers for a freshman by averaging 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.5 turnovers in a team-high 30.8 minutes. He made 82.4% of his free throws and was a plus-65 on the court.
Christie struggled with his shooting, making 38.2% of his shots overall and 31.7% on 3-pointers. Despite flashing some explosiveness and surprising leaping quickness, his need to add strength and bulk to his 190-pound looked evident once Big Ten play arrived. He shot 44.7% inside the arc, predominantly on midrange jumpers, and had issues finishing through contact in the paint. Christie made 23.9% of his 3s in February and March, as his legs fatigued with his defensive responsibilities while often drawing opponents’ top scoring threats.
“It may not have been reflected this past year, but I think I know and I think everyone knows I’m a better shooter than what I produced,” Christie, a native of Arlington Heights in Illinois, said in May. “Not really worried about the numbers that were produced – I’m a better shooter, and I’m going to shoot it better in the NBA.”
ESPN analyst Jay Bilas called the Lakers’ selection of Christie a “value pick,” and he complimented him for having “a really good shooting stroke” with a high release despite Christie’s struggles.
“I’d say he’s a solid defender, so you’d look at him as another 3-and-D guy,” Bilas said. “He wound up being a little streaky this last year, but he’s got a lot of potential. I think if he would have come back to school, we’d be talking about him as a first round pick next year. He just needed a little bit of time to develop, and he’s going to have that when he gets to the Lakers. “
Christie is the first MSU player selected by the Lakers since Magic Johnson went No. 1 overall in the 1979 NBA draft.
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