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Oklahoma City Thunder player grades: Semaj Christon will again fight for roster spot after anticlimactic rookie season

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Following his rags-to-riches tale, Semaj Christon struggled at the NBA level

NBA: Oklahoma City Thunder at Phoenix Suns Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Full Name: Semaj Rakem Christon

Contract Status: Signed August 20, 2016 to a three-year $2.3 Million partially guaranteed contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder. The final two years of said contract are non-guaranteed.

Player History:

  • Acquired by Oklahoma City on August 20, 2016
  • Years Pro: 1
  • NBA Debut: October 26, 2016
  • Position: Point Guard
  • Drafted: 55th overall pick in 2014 Draft by Miami Heat
  • College: Xavier

2016-2017 Oklahoma City Thunder Player Statistics:

  • Games Played: 64
  • Minutes Per Game: 15.2
  • Points Per Game: 2.9
  • Rebounds Per Game: 1.4
  • Assists Per Game: 2.0
  • Field Goal %: 34
  • Three Point%: 19
  • Free Throw %: 54
  • Player Efficiency Rating: 5.7

Pre Season/Early-Season Expectation and Performance:

Following offseason injury to reserve point guard Cameron Payne, Semaj Christon's winding professional arch lifted the 6'3 journeyman from basketball purgatory to Oklahoma City's main roster.

At the onset of a fresh season, this surprise training camp development provided uplifting sentiment for a unit lacking depth behind Russell Westbrook.

Unfortunately, though, as the romanticism from Christon's tale ebbed and the once airy plot turned to its second act, those ineluctable issues of depth remained.

During his first 20 contests, crimped by legitimate NBA competition, stout-hearted Christon rasped behind averages of 2.6 ppg, 2.3 apg, and 30/23/57 shooting.

Regular Season Grade: D-

Just as the rookie point guard seemed to make incremental advancement, Payne returned from injury to a fizzled hype and resultantly Christon spent much of Jan and Feb confined to Development League assignment.

While Christon circled back to a regressed and familiar spot along his beaten path, Sam Presti decided to include floundering Payne in a trade-deadline package to acquire veterans Taj Gibson and Doug McDermott.

No longer encumbered by Payne’s roster presence, over the season’s final stretch, Christon gained ample opportunity to redeem his story.

However, with the reserve unit now clinched, Christon historically sputtered during the season’s remaining 15 contests while averaging 2.3 ppg, 1.6 apg, and 35/19/75 shooting in 16 minutes per.

Further, among OKC players to log 650+ seasonal minutes, Christon sported a team-low -6.5 Net Rtg and 108.6 DefRtg.

These numbers and metrics ruthlessly engulfed what began as the initial feel-good storyline to a brave new day for Oklahoma City Thunder basketball.

Playoffs: IC

Fallen again from Billy Donovan’s rotation, during games three through five, Christon acquiesced all minutes to late pick up Norris Cole, as OKC exited post-season play 1-4.

Overall, vs. Houston, the tentative 24-year-old playoff newcomer logged just 20 minutes and five points.

Future Expectations:

Under normal circumstances, with two non-guaranteed years remaining on a light deal, and considering his struggles, Presti likely would cut Christon loose.

However, as Oklahoma City’s salary books are maxed, the embattled rookie may garner another chance to don Thunder blue and white.

If this occurs, a total overhaul of Christon’s outside shot and defensive awareness must be made.

For in spite of his palpable rookie shortcomings, if you look close enough, you can glean potential formings of a true NBA player bristling to emerge from Semaj Christon’s athletic frame.

Most Notable Game/Moment: 1/2/17 vs. Milwaukee Bucks

Five days before Cameron Payne returned from extended injury, Semaj Christon offered a season-high eleven point performance while making five-of-six FG attempts.