So Laker fans had a reason to watch the NBA Draft after all.
A few hours before the wildest NBA Draft in recent memory, the Lakers made a quiet, but smart move to get back into the action, making a deal with the Orlando Magic for cash and a future second-round pick (date unknown) for the Magic’s 35th pick.
With No. 35 the Lakers chose 6-foot-6 guard Cormac Karl “Max” Christie Jr. out of Michigan State. We will just call him Max.
Just making the trade itself tips the Lakers hand that they recognize they needed to get younger and more athletic. It shows they know they are in a combination win-now mode and retooling mode.
Max is only 19 and played one year of college basketball. His numbers with the Spartans aren’t eye-popping, but his potential is.
Take Me To The Max
Christie is the first player the Lakers have drafted out of Michigan State since that tall point guard guy they picked in 1979. His name was Earvin Johnson, better known as Magic. He was pretty good.
Max is not Magic though.
Max is more of a two-guard than a point guard (honestly, positions don’t matter anymore in basketball), if you play for Tom Izzo at Michigan State, you better be good on defense, and Max has a long wingspan and didn’t shy away from playing defense with the Spartans.
His mom (Katrina Hannaford) was a 1,000-point scorer at Northwestern. His dad, Carmac Sr. played some college ball at Wisconsin-Superior. Max has a younger brother, Cameron. He’s a baller too, a 6-foot-5 guard, in the Class of 2023.
Max is not related to NBA veteran Doug Christie.
Max In High School
Max wore No. 12 for the Rolling Meadows Mustangs in suburban Chicago. That’s the same high school as San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and comedian/action Sebastian Maniscalco.
Like all the other elite high schoolers, Max was in the AAU machine and what I like to call the ‘ranking portal.’
Players hoop all over the country to get the coveted stars from the recruiting evaluators, which then leads to offers and fame.
Max averaged 25 and 11 his senior year of high school and was the 2020-2021 Gatorade Player of the Year for Illinois. He was picked for the McDonald’s All-American Game, but the game wasn’t played because of Covid.
The college offers came rolling in for Max but he only took one visit to Michigan State and committed to the school. At the time, Izzo compared him to former Spartan stars Gary Harris (now with the Magic) and Denzel Valentine (last with the Jazz).
Max started in 35 of 36 games with the Spartans averaging 9.3 points a game. Red flag alert, he only shot 31.7 percent from three-point range. Green flag alert, he shot 82.4 percent from the line. That means his form is good, just needs to add range.
The Spartans finished tied for seventh in a loaded Big Ten and lost to Duke in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. That was the game Michigan State had a five-point lead with five minutes left, but Duke just bulled past them.
Max declared for NBA Draft (being a one-and-done was probably the deal all along), said he would keep his eligibility, but then signed with an agent to officially say goodbye to Michigan State. He was projected as a second-round pick.
So what do the Lakers have?
Max represents potential. This is the way today’s NBA works. It’s all about projections.
Some guys pan out, some guys don’t.
With their depleted and aging roster, the Lakers have every reason to give Max a long look on the floor and see where he fits in.
He has the body type to play in the League. I wouldn’t be worried about his low points per game average in college, the last thing the Lakers need is someone who wants the ball and wants his points. They already have scorers.
Ideally, Max is a strong on-the-ball defender who can hold up against the NBA’s best shooting guards. The Lakers will need him to handle the ball some, but that won’t be his main task. He’s so young, just 19, that it’s impossible to project what he could be.
He could be an All-Star. He could be out of the league in three years. The Lakers want him to Max-imize his potential.