‣ Max Christie’s combination of point-of-attack defense, length, off-ball awareness, and defensive rebounding might make him the best perimeter defender for the Los Angeles Lakers.
‣ Despite his 3-point percentage this year, Christie is a better shooter than the statistics indicate.
‣ Christie has the potential to be the perfect fifth player in the Lakers’ closing lineup in the playoffs.
Let’s talk about Max Christie. He’s been making waves with the Los Angeles Lakers recently. His defensive skills, length, off-ball awareness, and rebounding might just make him the team’s best perimeter defender.
But that’s not all. Despite his 3-point percentage this year, Christie’s a better shooter than it suggests. He might just be the perfect fifth player in the Lakers’ closing lineup in the playoffs.
Just last week, our senior writer Jackson Frank was discussing how Christie was finding his role with the Lakers in his second NBA season. Now, a week later, Christie’s still killing it for the Purple and Gold. But what’s he doing exactly? And what does it mean for the Lakers’ title hopes this season?
At just 20 years old, Christie may already be the Lakers’ best point-of-attack defender. Despite his thin frame, his agility and ability to navigate through screens make him an asset on the perimeter. His on-ball mixtape looks eerily similar to that of former Laker enemy Doug Christie from the early 2000s.
Christie’s quick feet and hip fluidity were on perfect display when he put Donovan Mitchell in handcuffs to seal the deal against the Cleveland Cavaliers. In recent weeks, Christie has faced off against the likes of Mitchell, Darius Garland, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Tyrese Maxey, Fred VanVleet, and Kyrie Irving. Some of these matchups were more successful than others, but none of them seemed out of his league.
Christie isn’t just an on-ball specialist. He’s a multi-faceted defender that contending teams crave. His near 6’9 wingspan allows him to eat space on the defensive side of the ball. He’s also got a good motor and a strong sense of where he and his assignment are on the floor at all times, making him a good off-ball defender.
Christie is also a good rebounder for his position. He’s in the 70th percentile among wings in defensive rebounding percentage on missed field goals. Overall, Christie looks like the kind of defensive player who can man a primary perimeter slot for the Lakers in the playoffs.
But what about his offense? To make it in the playoffs, you need to provide value off the basketball. This usually comes in the form of spacing, something this Lakers’ team desperately needs. Christie’s 31.4% 3-point conversion rate on the season might suggest he’s a non-shooter. However, his indicators suggest otherwise.
Last season, Christie shot 38.7% from downtown on 150 3-point attempts. During the 2023 Summer League and the preseason, Christie hit 14 of 34 threes (41.7%). Altogether, that’s a 3-point mark of 39.1% on nearly 200 attempts.
Christie’s free throw shooting numbers are also impressive. For his NBA career, Christie is an 85.7% shooter from the charity stripe. That matters because free throws are a good context-independent measure of a player’s shooting ability.
Along with Christie’s potential as a shooter, his verticality and rebounding instincts make him a suitable candidate for cuts and dynamic lob finishes. This season, 36% of Christie’s field goal attempts have come after taking three or more dribbles. At the very least, Christie can be counted on to attack closeouts.
So, what does this mean for Los Angeles? Last postseason, the Lakers struggled to find a fifth guy to round out their closing five who could defend without hurting their spacing. As it stands, the names of LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Austin Reaves, and Rui Hachimura are written in pen to close out games against most matchups. But who will their fifth guy be?
There’s a chance that Christie can serve as the perfect fifth option to round out the quartet that led the Lakers all the way to the Conference Finals last year. There’s also a chance that his recent stretch of success is merely one of the countless anomalies that take place during the grueling NBA regular season. But the possibility of the former taking place makes Christie worth keeping tabs on moving forward.