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Would the Nuggets gamble on Marquese Chriss' upside?

Harrison Wind Avatar
May 25, 2016


Up until the NBA draft on June 23, the BSN Nuggets staff will review first-round prospects the Nuggets may target. We’ll look at their skill set, the role they will play in the league and how they could potentially fit in Denver.

Marquese Chriss, F, Washington

This week, we hosted Sam Vecenie on our podcast, who explained to us that in his opinion, Dragan Bender was the guy with the third most upside in this year’s draft after Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram.

That fourth spot is seemingly up for grabs. Depending on who you ask, Jamal Murray, Jakob Poeltl, Henry Ellenson, Skal Labissiere, and Marquese Chriss are all contenders for the next prospect with the highest ceiling. Murray has the offensive upside while Labissiere projects as a stretch big that most teams are in constant search of. Chriss, on the other hand, is a mix of both; a hyper-athletic four-man who can stretch the floor and possesses a premature, but skilled offensive game that oozes potential.

Chriss is an extremely raw, 6-foot-10, 233-pound four-man, with a chiseled physique. He’s extremely bouncy, a great second jumper and has a nose for the ball on the offensive glass.

Although he only took 60 threes during his freshman year at Washington, Chriss shot a respectable 35 percent from beyond the arc with a structured, repeatable form. He sets his feet cleanly on his jumper, and although his shooting motion starts a bit low, it’s smooth and straight up and down for the most part.

“I’m trying to stretch the floor a lot and I feel that shooting is a strong set of mine that I’ve gotten a lot better at – from NBA range and moving, shot off the dribble and stuff like that,” Chriss said at the draft combine. “I’m just trying to get better at doing that.”

Chriss also has decent ball handling ability and can get to the hole if he jab steps his defender off balance. He can also finish above the rim and is an intimidating force when he got out in transition last season. The 18-year-old, who’s one of the youngest prospects in this year’s draft showed off a fluid, but fragile post game this season, that because of his thin frame, will take a couple years to translate to the NBA level.

While offensively Chriss looks like a more athletic version of Markieff Morris, defensively he still struggles. Chriss is one of the worst defensive rebounders to come out of the draft in a while.

Per DraftExpress:

At 4.1 rebounds per-40, Chriss ranks among the least prolific power forwards in NBA Draft history according to our database. Among first round picks, only Thaddeus Young (who played mostly SF in college) had a worse defensive rebounding rate in the draft’s last 30 years. Chriss almost never puts a body on opposing big men in an attempt to box out and prepare for loose balls coming off the glass, and his relatively small standing reach (measured at 8’9, comparable with most small forwards) didn’t help matters much. In addition to his instincts, his motor here leaves a lot to be desired as well, as if at times appears he’s operating at half speed, and far more focused on his work on the offensive end.

Chriss’ defensive issues start on the glass. He often doesn’t care to box out his man and instead tries to jump and use his athleticism for rebounds. Like DraftExpress states, Chriss’ instincts aren’t great on the defensive end, but he does have the foot speed and athleticism to switch onto guards and defend in space. Those instincts haunt him defending the pick-and-roll, where he often looks indecisive and hesitant.

The Sacramento native is also prone to fouling and was disqualified in 15 of the 34 games he played in last season. Chriss often goes for blocks he has no business jumping for, gets himself out of position and commits a costly foul. Chriss will have to develop better defensive awareness if he wants to be a team’s holy grail at the next level; a four-man that can shoot threes and defend the rim.

Here’s Chriss matched up against California and 2017 projected lottery pick, Ivan Rabb.

Potential fit in Denver – Chriss fits one of the needs I’ve mentioned most often that the Nuggets have to address this offseason in a stretch-four. He can help Denver’s shooting and spacing, albeit he might be a year away from consistently contributing and could benefit by spending some time in the D-League next season. He’s a project, there’s no doubt about it, but the upside is obvious.

Current projection – Chriss is currently projected anywhere from eight, through the end of the lottery and would most likely be available if the Nuggets wanted to jump on him at seven. His measurables combined with his athletic upside make him a prime candidate to rise up draft boards as Chriss attends individual and group workouts in the coming weeks.

If Denver stays at seven or even moves back a few spots and wants to target potential, Chriss may be worth a look. However, he’s also one of the biggest risks in the lottery, who’s career arc may ultimately depend on what situation and what type of organization drafts him. He could be a team’s power forward of the future if they handle him responsibly.

Chriss has the athleticism but has to refine his game on the defensive end to reach his potential. Credit: Sy Bean, The Seattle Times
Chriss possesses the athleticism but has to refine his game on the defensive end to reach his potential.
Credit: Sy Bean, The Seattle Times



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