Michigan State Spartans wing Max Christie is a former McDonald’s All-American and FIBA gold medalist. Christie, who is a projected top-40 pick in our latest NBA Mock Draft, now looks to turn pro.
But what does he bring to the table? First and foremost, he is a shooting specialist who connected on more than 40 percent of his 3-pointers for his AAU squad on the Under Armour Circuit in 2019, via Cerebro Sports.
Christie averaged 22.0 points, 7.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.2 steals and 2.7 blocks per 40 minutes while shooting 37.1 percent on 3-pointers en route to a gold medal while playing for Team USA’s U16 squad that same year.
NBA insider David Aldridge recently spoke to someone from the program, who shared very high praise (via The Athletic):
“Always, we go through drills at the first camp. The second camp, he was going to be first in line to make sure everybody knew, saw the way the drill was supposed to go. The guy who’d say ‘Hey, fellas, let’s make sure we pick up the trash in the cafeteria.’ He was that guy … For the guys we wanted around, they would definitely feed off of that type of leadership.”
He played a smaller role within his offense during his one-and-done season in college. Michigan State coach Tom Izzo gave Christie more minutes than any other freshman (including Miles Bridges and Jaren Jackson Jr.) in over a decade.
While on the floor, he showed promising flashes. Christie was one of the only freshmen in a high-major conference to make at least 35 shots from both the midrange and beyond the arc.
As a freshman, he also shot especially well from the left elbow and when using off-ball screens. Plus, he had some actions on-ball in the pick and roll.
Christie still needs to improve his overall efficiency, especially finishing near the basket. But he is receiving incredible reviews about his workouts. Here is what one assistant coach told insider Rafael Barlowe (via NBA Big Board):
“Max Christie had the best workout I’ve seen. He shot the cover off the ball, he played with great pace, he finished at the rim, he showed a good basketball IQ. In the 3-on-3s he was cutting without the ball and was really assertive and aggressive. He did all the little things like sprinting to the corners. He was the best and was in a group of all guys expected to go ahead of him.”
Especially as an improving on-ball defender with a good knowledge of the game, it’s very easy to imagine the 19-year-old prospect finding ways to get better once he turns pro.
For The Win recently spoke to Christie about what he will bring to the NBA, some of his favorite memories in his basketball career and so much more.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
What is the main point of emphasis you stress when you talk to NBA teams?
Christie: For me, the biggest thing is that I am well-spoken and not very high maintenance. I’m not someone who is going to cause trouble or give you anything to worry about. I come off as clean, organized and neat. I do the little things to make sure they have an interest in me and make sure that I walk away with them being interested.
I recently read you had one of the best pre-draft workouts for a team. What did you do?
Christie: I’m just being myself. That’s all I need to do. I don’t need to be something that I’m not and try to showcase something I can’t do. I’m a player who is very versatile, and I can shoot the ball and defend. I stick to what I’m good at, for real.
Being a leader comes naturally to me. I did the little things like staying after practice. I was very communicative with my teammates. I did my best to make sure we were a team. I try to do what I can to prove I am a leader. I wanted to bring my team together, so we could win a gold medal for the USA’s U16 national team in Brazil. That was about three years ago, and I still have that jersey hanging up in my room, and that was one of my favorite basketball memories.
What do you think your most elite NBA skill will be at the next level?
Christie: I think it’s shooting and defense. Shooting will translate to any level for the game of basketball. If you can shoot the ball, you’re going to be valuable to any team. That’s something that I can do right away.
Defensively, it’s the same thing. This past year, I got a lot better on that side of the floor. That’s how I can get on the floor early with my toughness and my willingness to play as hard as I can on defense. I want to contribute as much as I can and ride through the ups and downs. I want to develop as best as I can. I want to be the best version of myself, so that I can contribute as much as possible and as fast as possible when I get to the NBA.
You used lots of off-ball screens in college. What is your comfort in those actions?
Christie: That came from being at Michigan State. That’s one of our biggest attributes, especially for the position that I played when I was there. I had to move off the ball to get some easy baskets. Coming into the NBA, my time should hopefully help me translate with that off-ball movement and navigate off-ball screens to get shots. On the defensive end, it also taught me how to defend those.
We saw you in the pick and roll a bit. How confident are you with the ball in your hands?
Christie: I’m very comfortable with the ball in my hands. I did that all of high school. Maybe not as much at Michigan State, but that’s because that’s how the system was there. But I like when the ball is in my hands. I like to be in control of what’s going on. I think that I’m versatile enough to play both on and off the ball.
What were some of the biggest lessons you learned while at Michigan State?
Christie: Off the court, I learned more about having resiliency and how to deal with adversity. This past year wasn’t the smoothest year for me, but having ways to find ways to deal with that and channel that into good energy is something that I learned. That’s something I’ll be able to learn during my time in the NBA.
What made you decide to stay in the NBA Draft for this cycle?
Christie: I feel like I’m ready. I’m betting on myself. I received constructive criticism from teams and people in my circle. I need to improve on my physical strength, but I think that’ll come. I’m only 19 years old. As I get a year or two or three in an NBA system, that’ll naturally grow. It’s not something I’m worried about. I’ve done everything in my control.
I was confident in myself all the way, and I decided to stick with that. I think that being a professional at the sport you love is just really, really cool. I’m excited to take on that next chapter of my life and do everything I can to take care of myself and be a true professional.
Tell me about your desire and hunger to get better when you’re in the NBA.
Christie: That’s something natural within me. I have a lot of things that motivate me, like my family and my love for the game. But I think the motivation to get better is natural for me. I want to go to veterans and ask as many questions and get the extra work in. That’s something I’ll make sure to do once I’m in the NBA and grow as much as I can. People may still sleep on my defense a little bit. It was underrated this past year because I wasn’t very good at it before, and now I’m a lot better.
How did you fall in love with the game of basketball?
Christie: I’ve just been playing basketball my whole life. It’s the only sport I really played. My family is a basketball-oriented family. We all played together in the driveway. I played high school basketball at Rolling Meadows High School near Chicago and then Michigan State this past year. I love the sport because you can be very creative. There are a lot of things you can do with that ball. You can go to a lot of places with it. You can build a lot of relationships. It can put you in contact with a lot of cool people. That’s why I love it.
Who are some of your favorite players to watch in the NBA?
Christie: Kevin Durant, Jayson Tatum and Devin Booker are three guys that I really like. They’re very fun to watch. They’re all prolific scorers, and I think I can emulate my game, in some fashion, by watching them play. With my ability to shoot, I’m a natural scorer as well. I shoot well and play in the midrange like they do. One with a smaller role who I like to watch is Gary Trent Jr. from the Raptors. He’s versatile on offense, and he plays with a lot of energy on defense. He has a knockdown 3-pointer, and he can play on the ball or off the ball.