Marquese Chriss is alluring to NBA teams that can afford to swing for the fences on a high-risk, high-reward prospect. The Washington freshman forward has a propensity for explosive plays and can score from all levels of the floor, but he's only begun to scratch the surface of his potential and presents risk as an underdeveloped passer, defender and rebounder.
Whether it's transition, put-back dunks or cuts, Chriss is a threat to finish with colossal power at the rim. These dunks will make it onto highlight reels, but it's also a critical aspect of his game since he rarely uses his left hand and is forced into gawky righty scoop shots that get altered. The ability to finish with athleticism helps mitigate that fault.
Though Chriss shot just 35 percent from three and 68.5 percent from the line, he projects favorably as a stretch forward. He "hops" on the catch and has a clean release. Considering his athleticism, he could be both a threat to roll or pop in screen actions.
Spacing is the most important thing in the modern NBA, so anytime a player can stretch the floor it helps the offense out. When a coordinated, fluid athlete can also drive closeouts and finish with athleticism, or play from the high post, then we're talking about a player that has the potential to explode as a scorer.
However, there's a naturally high probability that Chriss never does develop into a go-to scorer, so he'll need to improve as a passer. As a freshman he was a record scratcher: when he got a touch, the ball stopped, and he'd get tunnel vision. Even when he did decide to pass, he was inaccurate and bound to commit careless turnovers.
Chriss' assist-turnover ratio (26 assists, 69 turnovers) is troubling, similar to the underclassmen seasons of comparable forwards like Stromile Swift, Michael Beasley, Al-Farouq Aminu, Derrick Williams and Anthony Bennett. Beasley was a 19-point-per-game scorer before his career went off the rails and Aminu has tremendous defensive versatility, but the others have been essential busts.
Everything good about Chriss is a theoretical since he has red flags in other areas of his game. Unless he's paired in the frontcourt next to a vacuum, his team might get beat up on defense since he doesn't like to box out. He might be a tremendous athlete, but he has poor fundamentals and is far away from ever being valuable on defense.
Chriss rarely gets seated in his stance on the perimeter, loses track of his man off the ball and sometimes doesn't even get his hand up to contest shots. He was also in constant foul trouble, since he can't resist biting at pump fakes and swipes at the ball instead of moving his feet laterally.
Because of weak rebounding, he might make more sense playing small forward, but when he's getting toasted by middling college players, you get a stomachache thinking about what will happen when he goes against the likes of Rudy Gay and Gordon Hayward -- never mind Kevin Durant and LeBron James.
But Chriss does show flashes that will make teams wonder what he could be capable of in a locker room with positive veteran influences and coaches that teach him fundamentals.
Those blocks detail the same type of athleticism Chriss shows on the other end with his high-flying dunks. If only Chriss played with this level of intensity all the time. Still, despite his flaws, in a draft class without a clearly defined second tier, it makes sense that Chriss is receiving hype.
No one could have realistically expected Chriss' stock to rise this quickly prior to the collegiate year. "I had a stretch where I was playing really well and people started talking and there was a little buzz around," Chriss told the Seattle Times when asked about the NBA Draft becoming a reality. "People were noticing and embracing it I guess. That's when I kind of thought OK this is going to happen. It happened a little quicker than I thought to be honest."
"A little quicker" might be an understatement, since Chris was the 56th ranked high school recruit and late bloomers in high school seldom have strong enough freshman seasons to be selected high in the draft. If Chriss is selected in the lotto, he'll enter an extremely rare class of players. Since 2000, only five lottery picks were both non-top 25 high school recruits and left college after just one season.
Here are the five players who bucked the trend:
|Name||NBA Pick||RSCI||Career BPM|
Jamal Crawford is the only established success above, though Zach LaVine is on his way and Ben McLemore has shown flashes. What's noteworthy is how much Chriss' scouting report is reminiscent of Rodney White, who was selected No. 9 pick in 2001 by Detroit. White was a 6'9 forward that could play above the rim and shoot threes. But he struggled to defend, pass and rebound.
White was out of the NBA after his fourth season, a fact that might make you pause when assessing Chriss from a superficial standpoint. But savvy NBA teams will look much deeper. If Chriss has an encouraging psychological profile, it'll bode well for his future. The situation he's drafted into will play a crucial part in his development as both a player and person, and under the right circumstances he could blossom.
Marquese Chriss would've benefited from more time in school to develop in this game, but instead he will be this year's NBA Draft lottery ticket.
Kevin O'Connor can be contacted on Facebook and Twitter @KevinOConnorNBA. His 2016 NBA Draft Guide is available now and can be ordered by clicking here. Check out his full scouting report of Marquese Chriss: