In hindsight, you can see the Lakers walking into their draft room on Thursday and watching Michigan State freshman Max Christie. But early Thursday, the Lakers didn’t even have a draft pick.
Christie was a brilliant talent in high school, the McDonald’s All-American, and had the image of a shooter. At 6-foot-6, he’s a versatile perimeter defender. In the second round, these features become increasingly difficult to find.
“It’s hard to have a consensus pick,” Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka said. “Maybe at No. 1, you can get a room full of scouts and get unanimous choices. But once you get to 35, there are a lot of different opinions. But very unique on this night — it’s not always It’s happening — but Max is the consensus pick of all scouts and all front-office guys.”
Christie isn’t without his flaws, though, and there’s a reason he could have been drafted at No. 35.
So why do the Lakers like Christie so much? What are his thoughts on joining the Lakers? What about other Lakers moves?
Let’s try to answer some of these questions:
When the Lakers make their picks, the team can choose from more NBA-ready prospects — namely Ohio State forward EJ Liddell. But Pelinka said on draft night, you can’t think that way.
“I think the wrong thing to do in the draft is to say, ‘We need to get this guy who can play for us right now.’ That’s when you can make a big mistake,” Pelinka said. “We wanted to pick a player that we thought could help us at the moment, but really develop into something special. We think Max Christie has that DNA.”
Michigan State’s numbers aren’t great — especially Christie’s 31.7 percent from beyond the arc.
“I really think he’s going to be a really good shooter,” Pelinka said. “He’s got a beautiful touch on the ball. He’s got a great arc and spin on his shot. And then he’s a twitchy athlete with a very unique throw and finishing around the rim. He can get into the paint. We Really think he’s a guy who if he chooses to go back to school, you’re talking about a guy who could easily be in the top 20, the top 15 in next year’s draft. So being able to get a guy like that at No. 35 and develop him is It’s rare and we’re really proud.”
The Lakers had known him long before last season, scouting Christie while he was attending elite summer camps when he was a high school star.
How does Christie feel about all this?
Christie struggled with emotions that night, and his dream came true early in the second round when the Lakers drafted him. He is no longer a dreamer. Now he’s teammates with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.
“I definitely thought about it,” he said. “I don’t know if the magnitude you just said was fully processed in my mind. But it definitely flashed through my mind a few times.
“It was a great opportunity for me to learn and get better and play alongside them, which is obviously ridiculous.”
What are the immediate plans?
Make his shot more consistent, make him stronger.
“He knows that,” Pelinka said. “That’s something we talked to him about. He’s got to get out of here early and start working with our Lakers strength team. I think he’s capable of moving his feet and maybe defending three positions. He’s got a long arm. You can project forward what you think your kid’s physique is and he’s in great shape and he likes the weight room. Here’s a question we asked him.
“So I hate putting a timeline on it — I can’t really predict how a guy will grow and fulfill. But he’s got a great size and basketball skills, and I think he’s going to develop very quickly.”
What about the rest?
The Lakers also added Syracuse shooter Cole Swede and Vanderbilt guard Scottie Pippen Jr. — two players that Pelinka is clearly excited about.
They like Swider’s shooting — he shot over 41 percent from 3-point range at Syracuse last season. While Pippen Jr. was an excellent scorer at Vanderbilt, Pelinka praised his defensive intensity during the Lakers practice.
Swider worked out twice for the Lakers.
The team also received a promise from Shaquille O’Neal’s son, Sharif O’Neal, to join the team in summer league.
While rumors abounded about the Lakers and Kyrie Irving, it wasn’t resolved or resolved Thursday night. Pelinka did say he and new coach Darwin Ham have met with Westbrook to discuss their hopes for the season.
“Darwin and I have met with Russ and have been candid about how we think he fits into this team and what we expect from him next year if he decides to join the team next year,” Pelinka said. And he’s also ready to embrace the defensive philosophy first, and if he chooses to come back, he’s made that clear to Darwin and me. But he hasn’t made a final decision on this yet, and he has more time to figure it out with his family all of these.
“But if he comes back, he’ll be here with open arms and I want to carve a path in front of him for him to have a successful season.”