Finding a legitimate backup and third point guard has been a hot topic for the Thunder dating back to last season. Due to all the hoopla regarding OKC’s new big three and Russell Westbrook’s contract extension, this agenda has been an afterthought during the offseason until now.
Last season, Semaj Christon was thrown into being the MVP’s backup in his rookie NBA season. Obviously, it’s a tall order to expect a rookie to keep up what Westbrook started, but to many fans, it wasn’t an unreasonable thought at all.
Averaging 2.9 points, 2.0 assists, and 1.4 rebounds in 15 minutes per game isn’t an exciting stat-line and definitely not when you look at his 34.5 percent shooting and 54.8 percent shooting from the free throw line. Any and everyone in their right mind knows those aren’t acceptable shooting percentages, but Christon’s fight, relentlessness, and aggressive style of play turned him into a nuisance on the defensive end of the floor.
With that being said, he deserves a spot on the Thunder roster.
Although Raymond Felton should be the backup point guard for the 2017-2018 season, Christon deserves a roster spot over Isaiah Canaan for multiple reasons. Mostly because of that fight we just mentioned.
Canaan is starting his fifth year in the NBA and seemed to have already reached his full potential a couple of seasons ago. Christon is starting only his second NBA season and clearly hasn’t reached his full potential yet. In layman’s terms, Christon has more upside than Canaan at this point.
Having Isaiah on the roster last year may have benefitted the Thunder more than it would to have him on the team this year. He has a reputation as a 3-point specialist, which last season, on a team that couldn’t seem to get the basketball in the basket, would’ve been a great weapon to have. However this season, the Thunder have three elite scorers on their team, a draft picks that’s expected to be able to shoot the ball well in Terrance Ferguson and a more developed and experienced Alex Abrines who can also shoot the ball.
This would be a premier time for the Thunder to have a player like Semaj on the bench with that pit bull mentality, biting at the bit to get into the game, frustrate the opposing point guard and mess up the flow of the opposing team’s offense. His skill set, just like Andre Roberson, will be more valuable to a team like this where their weakness (shooting) isn’t as highlighted.
Defensively and mentality wise, Christon deeply resembles a young Patrick Beverley. You can’t teach that but you can teach someone techniques on how to improve their shot.
As we’ve all seen during the NBA Summer League and Development League, Christon actually can score. He’s crafty with the ball and does a good job getting his teammates involved too.
Maybe being a backup point guard for a team like the Thunder was too much too soon for Christon, but he’s much better than the numbers he put up last season and that’s obvious. With the proper confidence, he can thrive and with a more experienced and confident basketball team, he’ll have more mentorship needed that will be more beneficial for his development.