Lakers select Michigan State's Max Christie in NBA draft

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Michigan State's Max Christie shoots during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against Maryland at the Big Ten Conference tournament, Thursday, March 10, 2022, in Indianapolis. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Michigan State's Max Christie shoots during the second half against Maryland at the Big Ten Conference tournament on March 10 in Indianapolis. (Darron Cummings / Associated Press)

The Lakers took the first steps toward rebuilding their roster Thursday, trading into the NBA draft and selecting Michigan State’s Max Christie with the No. 35 pick.

The team sent cash and a 2028 second-round pick to Orlando earlier in the day to acquire the pick. The pick will be the better of the Lakers’ or the Washington Wizards’ pick, which the team acquired last year in the Russell Westbrook trade.

Christie started in all 35 games he played for Michigan State last year, averaging 9.3 points. He was an All-American in high school in suburban Chicago.

In his one year at Michigan State, Christie struggled to consistently shoot, though he projects as a 3-and-D wing.

“Another 35th pick from Michigan State,” Draymond Green tweeted. “History says he’s going to be an All-Star.”

Green was picked 35th in the 2012 draft.

“It’s amazing. It’s surreal.,” Christie told reporters in New York. “LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony — the list goes on. A bunch of great names, a bunch of great players on the Lakers team. I think I can learn a lot and get a lot better in that organization.”

In addition to drafting Christie, the Lakers also signed Syracuse guard Cole Swider and Vanderbilt guard Scotty Pippen Jr. to two-way contracts, a source told the Los Angeles Times.

Swider, who worked out twice for the Lakers, shot 41.4% on more than six three-point attempts per game last year. He spent the first three years of his college career at Vanderbilt.

Pippen, son of NBA Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen, averaged more than 20 points per game in his sophomore and junior seasons at Vanderbilt. He played high school basketball for Chatsworth Sierra Canyon for two seasons.

The selection of Christie comes amidst healthy speculation about the Lakers and a possible partnership with All-Star Kyrie Irving.

Irving, who can opt out of his current deal with the Nets, and the Lakers have mutual interest, sources said, in creating a pathway to reuniting with James. A deal to return to Brooklyn, provided the Nets’ extension offers improve, is still a possibility as is a trade to another team.

Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr. goes up for a dunk ahead of Dayton's Toumani Camara.
Vanderbilt's Scotty Pippen Jr., left, goes up for a dunk ahead of Dayton's Toumani Camara, right, in overtime of the second round of the NIT on March 20 in Nashville, Tenn. Vanderbilt won in overtime 70-68. (Mark Humphrey / Associated Press)

It’s all a part of a chaotic Lakers’ offseason that began with the firing of Frank Vogel. The team hired Milwaukee assistant Darvin Ham as its next coach and rounded out his staff with assistants including Chris Jent and Jordan Ott.

Christie was considered a first-round prospect before he got to Michigan State.

The Lakers could have as many as nine full-time roster spots depending on how the team handles options for Stanley Johnson and Wenyen Gabriel.

The Lakers had aggressively pursued a second-round draft pick after trading their lone pick in the 2021 draft. The team did, however, add Austin Reaves as an undrafted free agent.

Like they did in 2019, the Lakers looked to Orlando to strike a deal. That year, the team took Talen Horton-Tucker, sending a 2020 second and cash considerations to the Magic. That pick ended up in Philadelphia, with the 76ers selecting Paul Reed.

Christie said he hopes to learn from Anthony, who is an unrestricted free agent, in order to pick the brain of one of the NBA’s all-time leading scorers.

“It feels really, really good just to have my dream come true,” Christie told reporters. “I’m really living my dream, so it feels really, really good. That’s the only thing I can sum up. I have a lot of emotions right now.”

The 6-foot-6 Christie also averaged 3.5 assists last season. Although he hit just 31.7% of his three-point attempts, his smooth shot and improving wing defense attracted attention as he elected to head to the NBA after one collegiate season.

The Lakers have a solid history of finding NBA-caliber talent outside the upper reaches of the past six drafts, and their scouting department identified Christie as a depth addition who could contribute more in the future to a team perpetually in win-now mode with Davis and James..

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.