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NBA Daily: Waiving Chriss, An Inevitable Warriors Reality

Since the NBA Finals, the Golden State Warriors have needed more shooting. Waiving Marquese Chriss to hold onto Damion Lee is just the latest, inevitable example of that priority.

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Believe it or not, Marquese Chriss’ fate in Golden State may as well have been sealed as far back as June. 

While only three Warriors made multiple three-pointers in the clinching game of the NBA Finals, when Chriss was at home after a midseason trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Houston Rockets, his 2019-20 path was already being determined without him.

Each Draymond Green brick, Andre Iguodala clank and Alfonzo McKinnie wayward miss cemented the dynasty’s newfound needs.

Of the Warriors’ current roster, only Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry shot better than 33.3 percent from beyond the arc while making more than two 3s during the playoffs. Obviously, any mention of the Splash Brothers this season comes with a distinct, injury-related asterisk.

Their absences this season have made that playoffs-dearth of deep shooting even starker. Nonetheless, a quartet of newcomers has exceeded any of the supporting production the Warriors found while losing last year’s finals: D’Angelo Russell, Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III and Damion Lee.

Finding those four this offseason, from quite varied paths, shows how much of a priority shooting was for Golden State general manager Bob Myers.

Meanwhile, Chriss had gone 5-of-22 from three in 37 games this season.

Thus, needing a roster spot to keep Lee at the NBA level beyond the 45 days allowed by a two-way contract, Golden State waived Chriss late Monday night after he scored eight points and grabbed five rebounds in a 111-98 loss at the Sacramento Kings.

As always a bit of a wildcard possibility since the Warriors signed him at the end of September, Chriss had largely outperformed expectations this season. In such, the athletic leaper was shooting a career-high 48.5 percent from the field, grabbing a career-high 11 rebounds per 36 minutes and scoring 14.9 points per 36 minutes, a near-best outside of his rookie season on a tanking Phoenix Suns squad.

Waiving Chriss had little-to-nothing to do with him, ignoring how dismissive that sounds: Instead, it was all about Lee and Golden State’s need for shooting. Even if this season is a gap year for the franchise while it awaits their return to health, keeping Lee on board should help its next foray into the playoffs.

Lee would have provided vital shooting in the NBA Finals as Nick Nurse and the Toronto Raptors deployed a box-and-one chasing Curry. Certainly, that strategy worked so well only because both Thompson and Kevin Durant were injured, but that is as much a part of the game as these unpopular roster decisions are.

Facing a hard cap due to the Durant sign-and-trade, the Warriors had no other option if they wanted to hold onto Lee’s shooting, despite how well Chriss has largely played. Lee’s shooting at a 36.8 percent clip from deep while attempting nearly five 3s per 36 minutes made that decision a necessary one.

For that matter, Lee’s effectiveness comes both in catch-and-shoot situations and off the dribble.

If Golden State opts to retain him this offseason, Lee should fit alongside either Curry or Thompson… or both. By no means are the Warriors committed to Lee, but a full season of action in the NBA rather than the G League will shed much clearer light on whether they should.

Surveying as many of those options during this lost year is a priority for Golden State’s front office. It was that necessity that cost Chriss his role, not his play.

To some degree, the half-season with the Warriors worked out for Chriss as well. Only time will tell if he played well enough to convince another franchise to take a genuine shot on him — but Chriss proved himself a more viable rotation player than he had shown in years. His first chance may come via a 10-day contract, now a piece of the season in timing that is far from a coincidence.

This hiccup in his fourth year was not Chriss’ doing. This reality was formed seven months ago when a lack of shooting cost Golden State, of all franchises, a title.

Contributing writer to Basketball Insiders, based in Minneapolis since 2017 with previous stops in Dallas and Los Angeles. Went 32-of-40 at the backyard free throw line this past Christmas. Twitter: @D_Farmer

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