Grizzlies

Can Christie Complete the Grizzlies?

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With today’s NBA heavily focused on the three-point line, small-ball lineups and who can get up and down the floor the quickest, the wing position is more important than it has ever been.

The wing position historically has been one of the Memphis Grizzlies’ weak points while the point guard and forward/center positions have been their primary strength.

Players like Jason Williams, Mike Conley Jr. and now Ja Morant have run the ship while bigs such as Zach Randolph, the Gasol brothers and now Jaren Jackson Jr. have been crucial for go-to scoring in late-game situations.

The marriage between point guards and bigs has always worked in Memphis, but if the Grizz want to take the next step towards a championship, their wing depth will be pivotal.

Max Christie could help that if the Grizzlies decide to hold their picks in tomorrow’s draft.

WHAT CHRISTIE BRINGS TO THE TABLE

Christie just finished his freshman season at Michigan State under the well-respected Tom Izzo. With two former Spartans already on the squad in JJJ and the always-reliable Xavier Tillman Sr., the Grizz know they will be getting a hard worker that knows how to play the game the right way.

As previously pointed out in our Wendell Moore piece, Memphis’ new front office has a type. High-basketball IQ, maturity and effort is a common theme.

Although he is only 19 years old, Christie flashes all of those traits with both offensive and defensive upside.

His game is reminiscent of current NBA guards Jordan Poole and Tyler Herro.

Listed at 6′-6″ and 190 pounds, Christie is a quick and shifty wing who can get to his spots whenever he wants.

He also possesses a crafty handle that creates just enough space to get his jumper off in both the midrange and from three.

SHOOTING POTENTIAL

As a freshman, Christie averaged 9.3 points, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game.

Although his shooting percentages were not ideal (38% FG, 31.7% 3PT), his upside as a scorer at the next level is still high. His 82% free-throw percentage indicates a good translation to NBA production and his shooting form is routinely the same on almost every shot.

What many fail to realize when it comes to college prospects is that systems matter. Some teams will recruit a player by giving him the expectation he will have the green light to shoot the ball from day one.

Izzo is not one of the those coaches, and Michigan State is not one of those systems.

Michigan State prides themselves on having players star in their role no matter their status. This was the situation for Christie, who was ranked 18th on ESPN’s Top 100 coming into his freshman year. The same was expected of triple J, who reclassified and was still a top-four pick in the 2018 Draft.

In the NBA, Christie will be able to showcase his talent much more than he did at Michigan State. He has the skillset to be an elite scorer and the Grizzlies may very well draft him for that potential.

ROLE WITH THE GRIZZLIES

The Grizzlies’ starting wing spots are solidified for the future between Desmond Bane and Ziaire Williams. But a point of need that the Grizz will look to address in some form this offseason is scoring off the bench.

Giving Christie the green light in a sixth-man role would be ideal for both parties as they transition into title contention.

Playmaking is not necessarily a strength or weakness for Christie, but it is definitely an area he could improve to round out his game.

Memphis already has a number of players that do a bunch of little things, though, so this is not an immediate concern for Christie to add it to his game in Year 1.

SO YOU’RE SAYING THERE’S A CHANCE?

The key to adding Christie to the fold would be what the Grizzlies decide to do with their draft picks.

Holding picks 22, 29 and 47, it is highly unlikely the Grizz come out of this year’s draft with three rookies. Some form of consolidation will more than likely occur.

Most mock drafts have Christie going in the second round, but the Grizzlies have shown the willingness to take the guy they are most confident in towards the end of the first round if available– which allows them to lock a player in on a long-term, team-friendly deal due to rookie contract regulations.

THE VERDICT

Here’s the main question: Do the Grizzlies feel the need to develop their sixth man of the future through the draft? Or do they feel it’s more important to get someone ready to contribute in that role immediately?

Again comparing Christie to players with similar skill sets and play styles, Tyler Herro was a scoring threat almost immediately during his rookie campaign and has stayed steady since. It took Jordan Poole a few years for everything to click, but he’s now earned the respect of defenses over the entire league.

If that Herro/Poole type of player can’t be had through free agency, it makes the most sense to draft and develop Christie to see what he can become if surrounded by NBA talent. Giving Ja another weapon raises Memphis’ ceiling and gets them one step closer to having a championship parade on Beale Street.

This draft may not have as many future superstars as past drafts, but it does have an excess of great role players.

With shot creation being of major importance for the Grizzlies going into next year, Max Christie could be the piece to help Grind City get over the hump.

About Chris Ingram

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