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Marquese Chriss – 6’10” Forward, University of Washington, 18-years-old
A relatively unknown commodity at the start of the 2015-16 season, University of Washington power forward Marquese Chriss made a name for himself almost right away. He became one of the best freshmen in the country while starting all 34 games.
In 24.9 minutes per game for the Huskies, Chriss showed the makings of a talented stretch power forward. He averaged 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game. He shot 53 percent from the field, including 35 percent from three-point range. He topped 20 points four times, and had a stretch of 11 conference games in a row with double-figure scoring.
He was one of the anchors of a Huskies team that finished the season 19-15 and sixth in the Pac-12 (9-9). The team was among the nation’s worst defensively, allowing 80.8 points per game (337th of 351 teams), but was one of the best on offense, averaging 83.9 points (sixth nationally).
Chriss’ athleticism and established skills on offense have drawn a lot of interest from NBA lottery teams in search of a versatile big man. He will be a player worth keeping tabs on during Thursday’s draft at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
At 6-foot-10 and 233 pounds with a 7-foot-1 wingspan, Chriss already has the body of an ideal “stretch four” in today’s NBA. He has also shown the shooting range to force defenses to pay attention when he drifts to the three-point line. He shot 35 percent from distance at Washington, but could very well improve with more reps at the pro level. But his greatest asset at the moment is his unbridled athleticism. Chriss has a combination of speed and jumping prowess that can truly frustrate defenses. He has also shown the ability to play with his back to the basket, making turnaround jump shots and the occasional hook. His ballhandling is a growing skill that he will be able to use to beat defenders and create his own shot.
At 18 years of age, maturity will be a test for Chriss as he embarks on a professional basketball career. Though a first-rate athlete who can explode down the court, he hasn’t shown a consistent ability to defend other bigs; even though his quickness can allow him to recover and go for blocks or defensive rebounds. He averaged 5.4 rebounds a game at Washington, but didn’t prove over the course of the season that he was a willing defender. A cringe-worthy statistic was his high number of fouls. He also fouled out of 15 of his 34 games. He was one reason why the Huskies were one of the worst defensive teams in the country. On the offensive end, his shooting stroke and post game will need further development, as will his ballhandling.
Chriss has shown enough in a short time to be considered one of the top prospects in the entire draft. His athletic ability alone would be tempting for any general manager in search of a forward for the future. However, his shooting has really helped him stand out. If he can improve his defense, he could become one of the better young players in the NBA.
He’s still raw enough that it could take years for him to reach his potential. The team that picks Chriss will need to be patient and possess a coaching staff willing to take their time to build him up. Even on a lottery team, he would likely come off the bench. He could be picked anywhere in the top 12, and could go as high as No. 4 to the Phoenix Suns, who are in need of a power forward. The Toronto Raptors could be another suitor at No. 9, the Milwaukee Bucks at No. 10 or the Orlando Magic at No. 11.
NBA Player Comparison
Chriss has excited scouts and drawn comparisons to current Utah Jazz forward Derrick Favors. He has also been compared to Shawn Marion, who was a do-it-all All-Star at one time. Marion was the anchor of some very successful Phoenix Suns teams.
Keep a look out for Marquese Chriss on draft night, and be sure to keep yourself updated with LWOS’ complete coverage of the 2016 NBA Draft.