The Los Angeles Lakers scouting team has firmly established itself as a powerhouse across the league over the last decade. Here are some of the names of the Lakers players selected/acquired outside of the lottery in recent memory:
- Jordan Clarkson
- Larry Nance Jr
- Ivica Zubac
- Kyle Kuzma
- Josh Hart
- Moritz Wagner
- Talen Horton-Tucker
That is a list of quality NBA talent, all of which are still actively contributing to their respective rotations (aside from the rookies). The track record from a talent identification standpoint via the draft has been magnificent under the guidance of Jesse Buss. Yet, the success within the NBA Draft has not even been the main source of evidence that support the claim for the Lakers scouting team is the best the league has to offer.
That is due to the fact that Jesse Buss and his comrades work miracles on the undrafted free-agent market. In recent memory, here are some of the Lakers players picked up post-draft outside of the standard 60 selections:
- David Nwaba
- Alex Caruso
- Austin Reaves
- Scottie Pippen Jr
- Colin Castleton
- D’Moi Hodge
Aside from Colin Castleton, D’Moi Hodge, and SPJ (who cooked the G League competition in his rookie campaign), those are all guys that have shattered expectations thus far in their NBA careers. If the previously mentioned list of draft picks were labeled a home run, then it would only be appropriate to label this list of undrafted free agent signings a grand slam.
And yet, it feels like there may be a name missing from these lists. Perhaps, it is a name that belongs to a current Lakers player. Maybe just maybe, is is a name belonging to an individual not even old enough to sip an adult beverage at a pub. It could be the name of someone whose career could be a flop, but it feels like the name of someone who could very easily develop into a max salary caliber player.
Max “salary” Christie. Boy oh boy, does that have a nice ring to it. It might seem unrealistic to think that could be tangible presently, but it is something that is nowhere close to unattainable.
Upon hearing his name called at pick 35 in the 2022 draft, Christie was destined for success. As noted earlier, the scouting team just never seems to miss with those late picks. Combine that with the idea of Christie developing underneath the wings of LeBron James and Anthony Davis, and all indications were that this was a young man with a bright future in the city of Angels.
Throughout his rookie season, Christie never really had the opportunities on the court to build any type of rhythm within the rotation. Looking back at the surprisingly successful season that saw the team in the Final 4, Darvin Ham can be forgiven for conserving Christie in year 1. He may not have seen a ton of playing time as a rookie, but simply being surrounded by such high-quality players surely helped in his mental maturation process.
As the year went on, Christie looked more and more comfortable on the court during the various times he was let off the leash. He looked less and less timid, and it was clear that his teammates were getting through to him in terms of sparking a competitive fire inside of Christie.
Now, he looks like a player that is ready to provide serious contributions to the team’s championship chase. Throughout the 2022-2023 season, he was able to earn minutes here and there due to his dependability. On the defensive side, especially, Max showcased mountainous potential. On offense, he hit his shots consistently and offered sporadic glimpses of something greater as the season progressed.
The future is bright for Max Christie and the Lakers.
Now, he looks like a player that could feasibly join Austin Reaves as the future of the Los Angeles Lakers backcourt. With all due respect to D’Angelo Russell, Christie is 7 years younger and provides what D’Lo provides on the defensive side ten-fold. If he displays enough growth on the offensive side of the ball, he could even find himself in the starting lineup by the end of THIS season. The Lakers organization has been very loud publicly regarding their love for Christie in recent weeks.
After the work he put in during the 2023 summer league a few weeks back, who is to blame them for echoing these emotions?
Christie made it clear from the start that he has been in the gym this offseason. Not only does he look beefier physically, but he also looks much more versatile offensively. Whether it was attacking the rim, getting to his spots in the mid-range, or splashing 3’s from outside, it is highly apparent that this is not the same version of Max Christie that we saw in 2022-2023.
Even with just one full season plus this most recent summer league action under his belt, it is safe to assume that at the very least he is someone that can blossom into a high-level wing defender. It would be difficult to discover any opposition to that opinion.
His instincts and IQ already separated him for potential lockdown purposes, but his increased size will only make him more matchup-proof on the less glamorous side of the ball. As currently constructed, Christie could easily be labeled LA’s top perimeter defender.
His defense and youthful energy should keep him on the floor, but his evolution on offense will determine how often he stays on the floor. Darvin Ham knows that he can trust Max to give it his all on D, but can he trust him to be a consistent threat to opposing defenders?
With LeBron, AD, D’Lo, Reaves, and Rui, it is no mystery where the majority of the Laker points will come from this season. You will see a lot of depth beyond those guys, but you will not find any eye-catching scoring threats as you look further down the roster (that could change if they sign Christian Wood).
Jarred Vanderbilt, Taurean Prince, Cam Reddish and Jaxson Hayes are viable options on defense, but can any of them be counted on for supplemental scoring/playmaking should something happen to one of the primary scorers? Gabe Vincent should be that next guy down in the offensive pecking order, and was certainly a major pick-up in free agency.
Again, though, he is more renowned for his defensive acumen than his offensive game. That is not to say he cannot have a solid season this year offensively, it is just to say that he has never truly shown that he can contribute efficiently offensively over the course of multiple seasons.
The five names noted at the start of the previous paragraph will receive the bulk of the shots for the squad in 2023-2024 (barring any additional signings/trades), but there will be no shortage of shots to spare for the rest of the roster. A lot of the minutes structuring will inevitably come down to who is hitting shots because we already assume that nearly every current Laker is a net positive on defense.
He will have to earn his minutes to stay on the court, but Max Christie should be ready for a breakout season ahead. He will have to hit shots consistently in order to sustain those minutes, but his increased confidence should help with that matter.
We know what to expect from Max Christie today, but what can he grow into looking ahead down the line? The 2023-2024 season will be his chance to earn his stripes, and fans should expect great things for him both short-term and long-term.