Although the Toronto Raptors don’t have a draft pick until the second round of this year’s NBA Draft, they still could roll the dice on a young guard from Michigan State in top recruit Max Christie. This would help them look to continue their history of finding quality talent in the later parts of the draft.
After much speculation that he would return for his sophomore season to boost his stock, Christie officially kept his name in the 2022 NBA Draft and forfeited his college eligibility. Despite averaging just under 10.0 points per game at MSU, Christie decided against returning to school to boost his draft stock.
There have been several guards linked to the Raptors in the early second round. One of those guards is Trevor Keels, a 6-5 freshman from Duke who entered this year’s draft. Keels has been projected to be taken by the Raptors multiple times due to his impressive year down in Durham.
While Keels may be a bit more polished at this point in comparison to Christie, there are several reasons why the Raptors should take a gamble on Christie, if they’re in a position to choose between the two.
The Toronto Raptors should pick Max Christie over Trevor Keels.
Standing at 6-6 with an almost 6-9 wingspan, Christie’s length and quickness made him a valuable asset for Tom Izzo early in the season. This kept him in the starting lineup despite his offensive slumps. In an incredibly deep Big Ten, Christie often guarded the opposing team’s best player and helped set the tone for some of MSU’s most pivotal games.
Take their home win against Purdue in February, where the Spartans held future lottery pick Jaden Ivey to just 16 points on 5-10 shooting. Despite being just 18 years old and thrust into high-major college basketball, Christie’s tenacity on defense never waned. His physical tools, intensity, and athleticism should all serve him well at the next level.
Positionally, Keels’ future role on an NBA franchise is hard to pinpoint. With his size and shooting ability, Keels could be molded into a 3-and-D player, despite playing in both guard positions this past season. Futuristically, this could be a substantial role for Keels, but he might have a bumpier road to success in the pros than most fringe first-round guards.
If Keels were to stay in the draft, his success would depend upon the Raptors having a definitive plan in his future positional role and how quickly it will take them to smooth out the rough edges in his offensive game. Christie’s role as a two-guard/wing player who fights hard on defense while making some open corner 3s would be solidified.
Offensively, Christie’s game is still a work in progress, but the former five-star recruit showed signs of promise throughout the course of the season. With great lift and solid mechanics on his jumper, Christie remained consistent on every shot attempt, and his struggles from deep likely coincided with Michigan State’s occasionally stagnant offense.
As outlandish as it may seem, there’s a significant chance Christie finds more success on the offensive end in the NBA rather than he saw college. With so much more space to operate and less defensive attention on him, he could thrive.
In addition, Christie’s length and size embody some of the most important traits the Raptors have focused on. His time in East Lansing already solidified his ability to defend, and his physical intangibles could prove to be a perfect fit in Toronto.
During the NBA Combine, Christie fared well, showcasing his shooting touch and athleticism. On the first day of the combine, Christie finished first in the three-quarter sprint out of forty-nine participants and seventh out of thirty-six participants in spot-up shooting.
For the Raptors, drafting a player like Christie would give them another young, talented piece that they could develop within their own system that is far from a finished product. He still possesses all of the intangibles and traits needed to become a solid rotational piece, or possibly more.
Like many young players, Keels’ trajectory is hard to envision, as is his fit on an NBA roster. For a franchise like the Raptors, who excel with player development, Christie could turn out to be a second-round steal within their franchise.