Lakers GM Rob Pelinka and draft pick Max Christie discuss the future

Max Christie, of the state of Michigan, talks to reporters during the NBA basketball match at the Wintrust Arena, Thursday, May 19, 2022, in Chicago.  (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Max Christie talks to reporters at the NBA draft combine in Chicago in May. (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated Press)

You can see how afterwards works the Lakers walk into their design room on Thursday with a view to the state of Michigan freshman Max Christie† But early Thursday, the Lakers didn’t even have a draft pick.

Christie was a great talent in high school, and McDonald’s All American with a profile as a shotmaker. He is the size of 6 foot 6 to be a versatile perimeter defender. And in the second round, those traits get harder and harder to find.

“It’s very rare to have a consensus choice,” Lakers CEO Rob Pelinka said. “Maybe at number 1 you can get a room full of scouts and pick a consensus. But once you get to 35 there are so many different opinions. But very unique on this night – it doesn’t happen all the time – but Max was a consensus choice from all scouts and all front office people.

Still, Christie is not without flaws and was available with the number 35 pick for a reason.

So why did the Lakers like Christie so much? How about joining the Lakers? What about the Lakers’ other moves?

Let’s try to answer some of those questions:

Why Christie?

Max Christie prepares a shot.

Max Christie plays for Michigan State as a guard and shoots against Iowa in February. (Charlie Neibergall/Associated Press)

When it came time for the Lakers to make their pick, the team had options for more NBA-ready prospects, Ohio State forward EJ Liddell. But Pelinka said on the draft evening, you cannot think like that.

“I think it’s wrong to say in the draft, ‘We need to have this guy who can play for us now.’ Then you can make big mistakes,” said Pelinka. “We wanted to take the player that we thought could help our team in the current, current times, but who could really develop into something special. And we think Max Christie has that DNA.”

The Michigan State Statistics weren’t great – especially shooting: Christie only made 31.7% of the three-point range.

“I really think he’s going to be a really good shooter,” Pelinka said. “He just has a wonderful touch on the ball. Great arc and rotation on his shot. And then he’s a nervous athlete with a really unique floater play and finishing skills around the basket. He can paint. We really think he’s a man who, if he had chosen to go back to school, you’re talking about a guy who could have easily been in the top 20, top 15 of next year’s draft, so to get a player like that and take him developing with the 35th pick is rare, and we are very proud.”

The Lakers have known him long before last season, having scouted Christie as he went through elite summer camps while a high school star.

What does Christie think of all this?

Max Christie speaks into a microphone.

Max Christie speaks at a press conference in March. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

Christie struggled with the emotion of the night, his dreams came true early in the second round as the Lakers got him. He was no longer a dreamer; now he is teammates with LeBron James, Anthony Davis and Russell Westbrook.

“I’ve definitely thought about it,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s fully processed in my head, the magnitude of what you just said. But it certainly went through my head a few times.

“It’s a great opportunity for me to learn and get better and playing with them is obvious, as ridiculous as it is.”

What is the immediate plan?

Max Christie, at the free throw line, makes a shot.

Michigan State guard Max Christie shoots at Maryland in February. (Julio Cortez/Associated Press)

To make him shoot more consistently and make him stronger.

“He knows that,” Pelinka said. “It’s something we talked to him about. He needs to get out of here early and get to work with our Lakers power staff. I think he has the ability to move his feet, probably guarding three positions. He has long arms. You can project a little bit ahead what you think a kid’s build will be, and he’s got a great frame and he likes the weight room. That’s a question we asked him.

“So I hate putting a timeline on it — I can’t really predict how someone will grow and fill. But he’s got a great frame, great basketball skills and I think he’ll develop quickly.”

And the other guys?

Cole Swider, on the field, is dribbling.

Cole Swider of Syracuse controls the ball against the State of Florida during the Atlantic Coast Conference tournament in March. (John Minchillo/Associated Press)

The Lakers also added Syracuse gunman Cole Swider and Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. – two players that Pelinka was clearly excited about.

They love shooting Swider – he made over 41% of three in high volume Syracuse last season. Pippen Jr. was a great goalscorer at Vanderbilt and Pelinka praised his defensive intensity during his training with the Lakers.

Swider worked for the Lakers twice.

The team also received a commitment from Shareef O’Neal, Shaquille O’Neal’s son, to play with the team in the summer league.

What else?

Russell Westbrook dribbles during a game.

Lakers guard Russell Westbrook checks the ball against the Phoenix Suns during an April game. (Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

While rumors have circulated about the Lakers and Kyrie Irving, that would not be addressed or resolved on Thursday night. Pelinka did say he and new coach Darvin Ham met with Westbrook about their hopes for him this season.

“Darvin and I have had meetings with Russ and been honest about how we think he would be a good fit for this team and what we expect from him next year if he decides to sign up next year,” said Pelinka. “And he’s also willing to embrace the defense philosophy first, and he’ll have made that clear to Darvin and me if he chooses to come back. But he hasn’t made a final decision on that yet and he has more days to do.” figure it all out with his family.

“But when he comes back, he will be embraced here with open arms and I want to set a path for him to have a successful season.”

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times

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