Buying In on Max Christie's Potential
Taking a deeper look at what Michigan State freshman Max Christie can bring to an NBA franchise next season and examining why you should buy-in on his long-term potential as a prospect.
The optimism around Michigan State freshman Max Christie’s pro potential seems to be very tepid at the moment. The Arlington Heights, Illinois product came into the year ranked as a consensus top 20 recruit for the Spartans, and he was hailed as being a pretty clear first-round talent. However, after a season where the sharpshooter averaged only 9.3 points per game and shot just 32 percent from beyond the arc, Christie’s stock appears to have taken a fairly significant hit. His placement at 45 on the most recent update to the $DRFT rankings sort of validates the way Christie has plummeted in scouts’ and draft analysts’ eyes.
Some of his advanced stats aren’t great either; Christie finished with a True Shooting percentage of just 49.4% this season while also sporting subpar offensive (99.9) and defensive (107.8) ratings. Additionally, the inconsistency Christie showed primarily as a shot creator and on-ball defender on film this year makes it hard to argue with the sentiment that he should return to East Lansing for his sophomore season to develop more as a player.
You’ll see in the clips below that Christie still has a ways to go as a ball-handler. If he can’t get by a defender with his first-step quickness, he gets bottled up pretty easily at times. He just doesn’t yet have the versatility with his handling arsenal to break down defenders consistently. I also believe it’s a layer of his skill set that he’s still figuring out and becoming more comfortable with using. Hopefully, as his confidence grows as a scorer, some of that second-guessing or hesitation will be quelled.
In terms of looking at some of the defensive deficiencies Christie has, I don’t think he’s necessarily a bad defender by any means; however, there are clear improvements he still needs to make. From an on-ball perspective, I really think it comes down to Christie utilizing his physical tools more. He’s a little too upright in his defensive stance as well, but using his length and size more to overwhelm opposing guards would be highly beneficial for his efficiency as a defender going forward.
From an off-ball standpoint, I think Christie struggles with what many young players do in that they get caught watching the ball way too much. This issue isn’t really something that’s unique just to him, though; honestly, I came away with an overall positive outlook on what Christie can eventually become as a defender, given the improvements he made throughout the season on that end of the floor.
If I’m completely transparent with you guys, though, I sort of hate nitpicking at what a prospect can’t do. I would rather showcase what I believe they do on the hardwood that could positively impact an NBA franchise one day. That’s not to say constructive criticism isn’t warranted; it’s definitely necessary to show where these players can continue to grow, but harping on the negatives is not something I personally enjoy doing as an evaluator.
Frankly, I also find it hard to believe that there are 44 players in this draft who are better than Max Christie or who have more upside than he does. In the latest composite 2022 NBA Draft Big Board that we did here at No Ceilings, Christie came in ranked 23rd, and I know our own resident mad scientist, Tyler Metcalf, even views the Michigan State freshman as a lottery talent in this year’s class. I tend to side with my compadres here, as I believe Christie’s potential is too high to pass on in the first round.
There are a lot of skills Christie possesses that are translatable to the NBA, in my opinion—especially in the modern era of the game. I’m specifically a big buyer of what Christie can bring to a pro offense with his shooting versatility and the way he creates scoring opportunities off the ball. I know the shooting numbers were not great, but Christie still flashed the kind of knockdown threat he can be from the perimeter throughout the course of the year.
He’s already a potent catch-and-shoot threat who can take advantage of defenders who are overhelping or just a busted defensive rotation in general. However, it’s Christie’s ability to shoot off of movement that gets me excited about how an NBA offense could possibly utilize him. He isn’t just a standstill threat who is going to sit in the weak side corner and provide nothing else offensively.
Christie is more than comfortable coming off curl, back, or pindown screens, and he uses them to flow into shot opportunities with ease. An NBA coach should also be able to utilize flare and hammer screens to extenuate what Christie can do as a shooter. He’s also just devastatingly effective at times as a trailer in transition; if you lose him in the open floor defensively, it’s a near-lock he’s going to splash the shot when given that opportunity.
The snippets Christie additionally has shown as a potential mid-range monster of sorts possibly get me the most excited about what he eventually can mold into as a scorer. Standing at 6’6” and sporting a 6’9” wingspan, Christie has the size to get his shot off against nearly any opposing guard that may defend him. What he might lack currently as a ball-handler, Christie makes up for by using shot and ball fakes alongside the gravity he brings as a shooter to counter defenders when they try to run him off the three-point line. These fakes create the openings for the mid-range J’s for Christie, allowing him to get to his spots on the floor frequently.
As he hones in his handling skills, this dimension of Christie’s scoring arsenal is what I could see leading to him becoming a bucket in the association. There’s a clear path to me where I can envision Christie growing into some present-day version of former New York Knicks great Allan Houston. He might not be that polished yet as a shot-maker, but there’s enough quality evidence that suggests Christie eventually can blossom into that type of offensive player one day.
As I mentioned earlier with Christie’s defense, although he might have significant strides to make as a defender, I’ve seen a lot this season that makes me hopeful about his defensive outlook as a pro. Again, Christie has all the physical tools to be solid defensively. He’s a good athlete who moves well laterally and has the length to alter shots, as well as the potential switchability to guard three positions.
I also just love that the kid seems to care about defending; effort really doesn’t seem to be an issue for Christie defensively. Even when he gets beat on a drive or is out of position on a rotation, you can visibly see his frustration with himself. It’s hard for me not to appreciate that sort of mindset, especially from a prospect who many believe to be nothing more than a shooter. I think the biggest thing for Christie’s continued progression as a defender at the NBA level will be his commitment to the weight room and filling out his frame just a bit so that he’s got the strength to hold up against opposing wings.
Regardless of all the positives, I see with Christie’s skills, I’m also a big believer in him because he just turned 19 earlier last month. I think some people don’t realize how young he still is and what being in an NBA program could do for his growth as a player in a myriad of ways. Plus, hoops are just in this dude’s blood. Both of his parents played ball at a collegiate level, with his mom Katrina scoring over 1,000 points during her time at Northwestern.
Ultimately, I see too many positives with Christie not to be confident in selecting him in the second half of the first round of this June’s draft. He’s a safe pick with massive upside, in my opinion. At worst, he’s your prototypical three-and-D guy who at least adds some shooting and defense to your rotation. Best case scenario, though? I see a two-way scoring dynamo who could be an elite second or third option on a championship-contending team.
The immediate impact of selecting Christie might not be instantly felt by whatever NBA franchise chooses him. However, when we look back on this class a few years from now, Christie might be at the top of the list of prospects many evaluators kick themselves for passing on. I’m not a particularly good gambler, but I personally wouldn’t be willing to bet against elite shooters who showcase the versatility to impact the game in a plethora of ways.