NBA AM: Marquese Chriss Has Star Potential

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After an impressive freshman season at Washington, Marquese Chriss decided to enter the 2016 NBA Draft. He’ll be 18 years old on draft night, making him one of the youngest players in this incoming class. His potential coupled with his collegiate success make him a very attractive option for any team looking to strengthen their frontcourt.

The 6’10 power forward averaged 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.6 blocks and .9 steals in just 24.9 minutes per game in his lone season with the Huskies, while shooting 53 percent from the field and 35 percent from three-point range (on 60 attempts).

Analytics also paint Chriss in a very positive light, as he finished his freshman campaign with a 21.7 Player Efficiency Rating, 58.5 True Shooting Percentage, 112 Offensive Rating and 102.2 Defensive Rating. His per-100-possession averages were 28.3 points, 11.1 rebounds, 3.3 blocks and 1.9 steals.

Chriss is currently being projected as a lottery pick in most mock drafts. In Basketball Insiders’ latest consensus mock draft, he was slotted as high as No. 9 to the Toronto Raptors. has him going No. 10 to the Milwaukee Bucks and DraftExpress has him going No. 11 to the Orlando Magic.

While being a lottery pick certainly seems realistic now, he didn’t even expect to be in the 2016 NBA Draft before his breakout freshman season. He wasn’t on mock drafts around this time last year; in fact, Washington and Vanderbilt were reportedly the only schools that offered him a scholarship and Rivals ranked him the 62nd player in his high school class. He expected to stay in college for several years and keep developing his game, but his meteoric rise was a pleasant surprise and he decided to leave college when his stock skyrocketed.

Chriss never considered testing the waters, which would’ve allowed him to pull out of the draft and return to school, and he explained why the NBA Draft Combine last week.

“Me and [Dejounte Murray] said, ‘If we’re going, we’re going.’ There was no testing the waters because when I commit to something, I want to fully stay committed to it,” Chriss said. “I didn’t want to go into it doubting myself, thinking, ‘If I don’t do good, I want to go back [to school].’ I feel like I’m confident enough in myself that I know what I’m able to do here.”

At the Combine, Chriss didn’t participate in drills or five-on-five action, but he did impress with his measurements, athletic tests and interviews. He measured in at 6’10 in shoes, with a 7’0.25 wingspan and 8’9 standing reach. He displayed his incredible athleticism, including his 38.5-inch max vertical (ninth among all players at the Combine) and agility (11.93 seconds, eighth among all players at the Combine). As an 18-year-old who is trying to persuade NBA teams to bet on him in the lottery, he knew he had to come across as a professional who takes this process very seriously. Chriss did just that, coming across as intelligent and mature in his interviews at the Combine.

“I think I’ve grown up,” Chriss said. “People sometimes say that I’m kind of immature and I feel like that’s a misconception. I think I grew up a lot during the year and it was a learning process throughout the season.”

Chriss interviewed with many teams while at the Combine, including the Orlando Magic, Atlanta Hawks, Chicago Bulls, Milwaukee Bucks, Toronto Raptors and Utah Jazz. He enjoyed the meetings and getting to know the different executives.

“I love talking to people so I’m embracing it. I like being here, I’m having fun and I’m enjoying the whole process,” he said. “[Teams] ask a lot of the same stuff you guys are asking me, like what position I see myself playing. But really, they are just trying to get to know me. I feel like a lot of people don’t know how I actually am by watching me play, so now is a good time for them to just talk to me and see who I am.”

While he is somewhat raw and needs to continue growing as a player, there’s no question that he has an extremely high ceiling. He is also very versatile, which teams really value in today’s NBA. Chriss pointed out that he feels he can play and defend multiple positions in the league.

“If I get stronger, I feel like I can guard fours and fives, and I believe I’m quick enough to guard threes and twos,” Chriss said. “I think I have a good skill set to stretch the floor. I wouldn’t characterize myself as having one natural spot, I just feel that I can play.”

When asked what aspects of his game he has been working on the most, Chriss responded immediately.

“Shooting, absolutely,” he said. “I’m trying to stretch the floor a lot and I feel that shooting is a strong suit of mine and [something] that I’ve gotten a lot better at – from NBA range, shots off the dribble and stuff like that. I’m trying to keep getting better at all of that.”

Chriss scored in double figures 24 times last season and had multiple blocks in 15 contests. Some of his best performances of the season included:

– 29 points, 10 rebounds, 2 blocks (11-18 from field) vs. Mount St. Mary’s 11/19.

– 22 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks (5-10 from field) vs. Montana 12/12.

– 18 points, 10 rebounds, 6 blocks (7-15 from field) vs. Colorado on 2/13.

– 17 points, six rebounds, 5 blocks (8-9 from field) vs. Colorado on 1/20.

– 27 points, 11 rebounds, 1 block (11-17 from field) vs. Long Beach State in NIT.

Boston Celtics point guard Isaiah Thomas has become somewhat of a mentor to Chriss since both players attended the University of Washington. Thomas went from being the final pick in the 2011 NBA Draft to an All-Star this season, so it’s safe to say he knows what it takes to succeed in the NBA and maximize one’s potential. Thomas has given Chriss advice and the two have worked out together when they’re both on campus.

“He comes up there and he plays a lot,” Chriss said of Thomas. “He’s up there a lot; he stays involved with the school. He’s a good role model. I just feel like his work ethic and everything he has done for himself to get where he’s at is something that I want to do.”

Chriss is a terrific athlete with an NBA body and he showed glimpses of brilliance during his freshman season with the Huskies. He is somewhat raw, needs to cut back on his fouls (he averaged 4.1 per game) and must continue to improve the consistency of his jump-shot, but those things are expected for an 18-year-old big man who developed significantly ahead of schedule.

As everyone knows, NBA executives drool over players with a lot of potential during the pre-draft process, which is a big reason why Chriss is a highly coveted prospect. But if all goes as planned for Chriss, he could eventually become a real difference maker at the next level. Don’t be surprised to hear his name sooner than later on draft night.