Lakers’ 20-Year-Old Summer Star Could ‘Follow Austin Reaves’ Footsteps’

Max Christie, second-year Lakers guard

Getty Max Christie, second-year Lakers guard

All in all, there was plenty to be excited about for Lakers fans during the team’s two stints in NBA summer league play, first at the California Classic in Sacramento, then across the state line to the Las Vegas Summer League. Mainly, there was one thing to be excited about: guard Max Christie. That’s because, of the players who suited up over the last two weeks for L.A., Christie is the only one who is likely to see playing time in the purple-and-gold next season.

That’s certainly the impression the Lakers left in July. One league source told Heavy Sports, “He’s exciting. There’s excitement that he could follow Austin Reaves’ footsteps, what he did the last couple of years,” referring to the Lakers’ undrafted breakout star at shooting guard, who averaged 13.0 points in 64 games last year.

“The opportunity is going to be there,” Christie told Heavy Sports.

So far, Christie is seizing it. The minutes are not guaranteed, not with a team hoping to compete for a championship, but he has proven worthy of the preseason hype that surely is coming his way.

He started by averaging 21.0 points in Sacto, then put up 19.0 per game in Vegas. He also averaged 3.8 assists and looked good as a shooter, making 55.0% from the 3-point line (11-for-20). Christie is a pure shooting guard, but can pitch in with ballhandling as a combo guard, too.

“I’m just trying to be confident and attack when I have the ball in my hands,” Christie said.  “I’ve always had that as part of my game, I have had it since high school. And now this is an opportunity for me to sort of show it on an NBA level. Given that opportunity, I’m just trying to use it to the best of my advantage and just attack.”

Christie: Now Weighing in at ‘200, 205’

Physically, Christie looks prepared for a bigger role. He has spent the summer working out in Los Angeles and Illinois, and though he is listed in the Summer League program at 190, he said he is more like, “200 or 205” at this point.

“I was at home for most of the time, but I’ve just been working out every single day,” he said. “Whether that’s at home or in LA, I just put in the work every day. That’s all it really is. And so I think I’m sort of reaping the benefits of that and I don’t think anything’s happening by accident.”

Coming into next season, he will have a chance to put that work to good use. He is expected to be behind Reaves on the depth chart at shooting guard, and even with a revamped L.A. backcourt that now features both D’Angelo Russell and Gabe Vincent in addition to Reaves. Rookie Jalen Hood-Schifino is also in the mix at point guard.

Christie can play small forward, too, where the Lakers feature LeBron James and new additions Taurean Prince and Cam Reddish.

There are veterans in front of him but Christie is on alert—despite being just 20 years old, and despite being only one year removed from being a second-round pick, his number will be called. Coach Darvin Ham said recently that he wanted Christie to show leadership, and Christie said he got the message.

“(The Lakers) have been in contact all along, of course,” Christie said. “They let me know what is expected and I am just trying to deliver on that, or do more, exceed it.”

Christie Feeling More Comfortable

Playing for one season, even in limited stretches (Christie appeared in 41 games, including three starts, averaging 12.5 minutes), has done wonders for boosting Christie’s confidence. It showed in his summer performance.

“I feel a lot more comfortable, feel a lot more confident out here, just having the ball in my hands and being able to just play my game,” he said. “And so it’s kind of crazy what one year can do for you one year of experience. And so I think I’m reaping the benefits of just sort of staying even-keeled last year and learning a lot and being able to showcase it out here.”

Summer league stardom does not necessarily translate to regular-season performance, of course. But the Lakers appear ready to give Christie and opening for minutes. And Christie appears ready to take advantage.

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