For two years, Xavier was led by Semaj Christon and the athletic talents that came along with him. Now that rangy point guard is headed to an Oklahoma City Thunder team that's coming off a second trip to the Western Conference Finals and is still trying to get over the hump.
So what does Christon bring this playoff tested team? His athleticism and speed are impressive coupled with his ability to be aggressive. Many of his 17.0 points per game were scored in transition by running the floor effectively off of turnovers. Christon also has the ability to drive in the paint and either score or set up his teammates with open looks. As his 4.2 assists per game would indicate, Christon does prefer to finish at the rim if he gets inside. His ability to draw fouls has helped his scoring numbers, but when he gets to the line he must make more than 67 percent of his free throws, his average at Xavier.
Defensively, Christon can really contain point guards and even shooting guards. His 6-foot-6 inch wingspan helps him to keep guards in front of him, and the fact that he averaged 1.4 steals at Xavier shows that he is able to provide stops on the defensive end. Christon also can add an element of toughness to the Thunder on both ends, which is vital to being effective in the NBA. He is not scared of the moment or making the big play, in addition, he will do whatever it takes to help his team win on any given night.
Another aspect that the Thunder will like about Christon is the fact that he has room for improvement. He is a player who made great strides between his freshman and sophomore seasons in college, which not only shows that he is a hard worker, it displays that he has the ability to improve from year to year. This, combined with the fact that he could still fill in his frame physically, are positive signs going forward for the point guard and the organization.
One part of the Thunder and Christon partnership that may not fit as well together is the point guard’s shooting stroke. Oklahoma City shot around 47 percent from the field and 36 percent from the beyond the arc. Both are right around Christon’s averages in his sophomore season, but there are still some issues to iron out. There were times in college where teams would let Christon take open looks off of screens because of his poor shooting. Christon’s three point shooting was good as far as the numbers are concerned - 39 percent from deep. But when the average attempts per game was only two, it shows there is an inconsistency with his jump shot. With the loss of Derek Fisher, Christon will have to improve if he wants to fill those shoes. However, his impact is still felt in his driving and dishing prowess in the paint, but if he does not develop a jump shot, his NBA shelf life will be shorter than expected.
Christon, like most rookies to start this season, likely will not see starter’s minutes. The Thunder are set at the point guard position for now with Russell Westbrook, who is arguably the most athletic guard in the league. Off the bench, Christon can be a spark who can score quickly or force a turnover to end a bad run. Reggie Jackson’s role on the team changed into being more of a starter in the playoffs, and with Fisher becoming the New York Knicks head coach, there is a chance for Christon to work his way into the roster.
ESPN Analyst Jay Bilas mentioned during the draft that Christon was one of his sleeper picks with huge upside in this draft. Oklahoma City was planning for the future, but may have found a guard of they could use now to defend both guard positions.
This deep in a draft where not many teams made mistakes, the Thunder may have found their sixth man of the future in Christon. The stardom of Westbrook and emergence of Jackson should be enough to keep him at the starting position in OKC for years to come. But with the addition of Christon, this team has become more athletic, tough and mentally strong. The pick makes sense, and so does Christon’s position on the roster going forward.