2022 NBA Draft: Lakers swing for the fences by picking Max Christie

The unknown is something sinister. It is a word that evokes shadows, doubt and has no limits. In sports, especially when it comes to assessing prospects, the unknown can trigger similar emotions, but also represent an opportunity.

On Thursday night, the Lakers stepped into the unknown with the 35th pick of this year’s draft selecting Michigan State rookie Max Christie, a move that could pay the team significant dividends or leave them victims of their own pride.

It’s not hard to see why the rail-thin 19-year-old Christie – even by rookie standards – was already stamped with the dubious label of ‘draft’ after his selection.

“Christie is a draft, pure and simple,” Athletic’s Sam Vecenie said in his post-draft analysis of the Lakers pick. “A team’s assessment of him comes down to his organizational situation with his places on the roster and the confidence he feels to develop his cadre over the next two years. He will not be effective as a rookie.

The support system and patient development cycle that most young players need is something the Lakers could offer Christie, but for now, his growth may have to take a back seat to their current priorities.

By virtue of the composition of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers are still in win-now mode. Including a teenager still in this pressure cooker of a basketball environment feels like a risky attempt to serve both present and future ends – a slippery slope that few have mastered.

However, the team’s denial of conventional wisdom is not just a blow, but rather the latest example of the organization swinging for the fences. Examples of the team’s random move history include betting on another teen draft at Talen Horton-Tucker, revamping the roster a season after winning a championship, and rolling the dice with Russell Westbrook the last summer. Movements that have had mixed results at best, so far. The team also recently signed Darvin Ham, a popular move that gives the team an edge but ultimately hinges on a first-time head coach’s ability to navigate choppy waters.

For the Christie selection to take place, he will have to prove that he can also swim where others have sunk. Fortunately, there are enough signs to be optimistic about its prospects.

Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

“I think the wrong thing to do in the draft is to just say, ‘We have to find this guy who can play for us right now. That’s when you can make big mistakes,” Rob Pelinka told reporters Thursday night. “We wanted to take the player who we think could help our team at the moment, but who would really develop into something special. And we think Max Christie has that DNA.

Although Christie’s selection by the Lakers came as a surprise to many, Pelinka and the team’s proven scouting department aren’t the only fans of the former five-star rookie and McDonald’s All-American.

Beyond his aforementioned pedigree, the Chicago native also showcased the very skills and athletic tools that have become extremely valuable in today’s basketball landscape.

At 6’6″ and in possession of a wingspan of nearly 6’9″, Christie’s anthropometric plan portends that of a prototypical modern wing – the exact type of player the Lakers noticeably lacked last season.

During the league pre-draft combine, Christie also posted the the fastest three-quarter sprint time, sixth-best standing vertical jump, and finished 10th in the lane agility test among all prospects who participated.

When you combine Christie’s fluid attacking play that hints at an ability to score at all three levels with a defensive versatility that has often seen him guard the opposing team’s best player, Christie’s ability to ultimately find success at next level as a coveted 3 The wing -and-D looks like a worthwhile risk.

The question remains how quickly the future “project” can become a current contributor.

He can accelerate towards the latter possibility if his defense can translate immediately, a rarity among young players but a valuable key to finding a place in the rotation like Austin Reaves and Alex Caruso have done before him. Those who have worked closely with him suggest he might be on the right track to do so.

“He really, really impressed me defensively,” Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo told The Athletic of his freshman winger.

“He’s a much better defensive player than I think he was in high school, and he’s gotten a lot stronger. I think he took a good game and made it even better – or a great game and made it even better. He’s exciting because he’s just a great boy, a great student, he has all the intangibles.

As for the “3” element of Christie’s game, it’s a skill that may ultimately be what determines whether the Lakers got the home run talent they were looking for.

In 123 college attempts with the Spartans, Christie converted just 31.7 percent of his 3-point chances. While the number may be disappointing at first glance for Lakers fans looking for improved perimeter shooting this coming season, there’s reason to believe it’s a little misleading.

Its fluid shooting mechanics – highlighted by its Mount Everest-scaled exit point – along with a wide cross section of impressive shots as an amateur suggest that improved spacing and conditioning could to help Christie could recover his stroke.

“Much of his success will depend on his shot coming back,” Zach Milner Told Money screen and roll. For Milner, whose public work has been seen in The Stepian and more recently in a private role, Christie – and her date – have been interesting.

“According to the Cerebro Sports database, Christie shot 39.6% (42-106) from three out of 20 games in 2019 that included U16 UAA and FIBA, if that happens again I think his game translates well to the next level. In fact, I thought Christie deserved to be considered top 20 this year, and I felt confident he should be a first-round pick, so grabbing him at number 35 is good value.

Despite the limitations that naturally come with being a rookie, and whose body will likely need time to develop before it can contribute effectively to the next level, it’s understandable that the Lakers have been fascinated with the skills and tools physical appearances of Christie, especially when they were given to her. their limited resources to get a player with either, let alone both.

Two-way wings just don’t grow on trees. With their scarce supply and growing demand driving up their value in recent years, this leaves a team like the Lakers – who are short on cap space and trading assets – limited in their options. to acquire one.

The hope is that Christie’s choice puts them on the path to acquiring what they will otherwise struggle to do. And it can pay off if they have the patience to see it through.

“We really think he’s a guy who, if he had chosen to go back to school, you’re talking about a guy who could easily have been top 20, top 15 in next year’s draft “, said Pelinka after the Draft. “So to be able to get a player like that and develop him with the 35th pick is rare, and we’re really proud.”

Without a minute yet played at the professional level, Christie will continue to be the mystery box of the Lakers plunged into the unknown after. Until this seal is broken, the possibilities for both deals and falls are endless.

Rewards are usually reserved for those willing to accept some risk; those who not only embrace the unknown, but seek it out. There were probably safer picks than Christie when the Lakers found themselves on the clock, but they turned out to be players. It is their credo that they have chosen to follow.

Boom or bust be damned.

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