Drafted by: Miami Heat, 55th pick overall
Traded to: Charlotte Hornets for Shabazz Napier
A strong sophomore campaign put Xavier guard Semaj Christon on the NBA radar, and now his goal is to prove his athletic playmaking talents translate to the big stage.
He swooped to the bucket, improved his shooting and set the table for his Musketeer teammates. Yet despite upgrading his efficiency in nearly every category, his efforts weren't enough to earn widespread first-round consideration in 2014's deep draft class.
Christon's NBA value is fueled by his athleticism and agility with the ball. He really uses his physical gifts well, and he could be a dangerous slasher and talented defender.
His career trajectory will depend largely on how much he refines his ball skills and grasps the duties of being a point guard.
|Statistics at Xavier|
Christon, who stands 6'3.25" in shoes with a 6'6.5" wingspan, has above-average length for a point guard.
His reach comes in handy on rangy crossovers, high-release floaters and turnaround jumpers, as well as making plays on the defensive side.
Christon weighed 186 pounds at the draft combine, and he's a strong player who has a frame conducive to adding more muscle.
He can leap extremely well off of two feet or one foot, as he notched a 36.5-inch vertical at the combine. He's not the most explosive runner or defender, but he moves his feet fluidly and is agile.
Christon does most of his damage as an aggressive driver, whether it's in transition or half-court scenarios. He attacks the defense and scores with length or agility, depending on what's required.
He loves to directly attack the defense, not in a bully-ball way, but he tries to get right around them and score over or through them.
Once he creates enough separation, he loves to drive and finish with his right hand. In the lane, his athletic abilities gave college foes trouble and he drew bunches of fouls (7.8 free-throw attempts per 40 minutes in 2013-14, according to Sports-Reference.com).
He's become increasingly adept at weaving through the defense and finding mid-range opportunities as well. Depending on what the defense gives him, he can pop up with 12-15 foot pull-ups or convert jumping floaters.
Although he's not the most polished or advanced ball-handler in the draft class, Christon's fluidity and aggressiveness allow him to get past opponents and force defenses to rotate. When that happens, he dishes to the open man. Christon's assists per game decreased in 2013-14, but he dramatically cut down on the turnovers (from 4.2 per 40 minutes to 3.0, according to Sports-Reference.com).
From day one, Christon was a talented perimeter defender in college. He may not have always played perfectly, but he forced a lot of turnovers and utilized his physical tools.
Given his length and foot speed, he should be able to check most NBA guards. NBADraft.net scout Jorrye Nixon takes it to another level, saying defense could be Christon's calling card in the league.
"Looks like he could make a career out of his play on the defensive end, and should be able to defend some of either guard spot," Nixon explained. "Uses his length well on both ends of the court and is real good at pressuring the ball."
He already has the size, mobility and quick hands to be a ball hawk and on-ball weapon. If he's able to maximize that within an effective team concept, then he'll thrive in almost any situation.
As a sophomore, Christon upgraded his three-point shooting significantly, hitting 19 of 49 from beyond the arc (39 percent) as opposed to seven of 28 as a freshman (25 percent). However, he still has an uphill climb to prove he has a legitimate outside stroke, especially from NBA range.
His small sample size in college leaves some question marks, and his 9-of-25 performance from NBA range at the combine (on wide-open spot-up shots) was underwhelming. The shooting stroke looks decent, as it's quicker and is much more balanced than before, but it's not perfectly fundamental.
Christon also needs to improve as a handler and a passer if he wants to be an NBA point guard. His left-hand dribbling needs to be sharpened, and he's still learning how to run an offense. He's not very adept at orchestrating the attack or manipulating defenses without athleticism.
He'll struggle to effectively create for teammates if he doesn't learn how to find them and work for high-percentage possessions.
Even though he's not a one-and-done player, Christon will arrive in the NBA with some developing to do. We touched on the importance of him improving as a shooter, handler and decision-maker.
Due to those deficiencies, his early role will largely be based on defensive prowess and energetic slashes. He could appear for brief stints and supply some explosiveness while the main rotation gets rest.
Fortunately, the 21-year-old still has some upside, especially if he hones that outside shot. The ability to knock down open triples will at least make him more than one-dimensional.
It's tough to predict how masterful he'll be as a facilitator, but assuming he makes modest gains in that department, his coaching staff will trust him with more minutes.
If he gets somewhere near his ceiling, he could be an extremely exciting player. He would likely serve as a key combo guard, one of the first weapons used off the bench to put some athletic pressure on opponents.
Don't count on major production in the box score, but don't be surprised by an impressive two-way impact.
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