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Stiffs NBA draft series: Marquese Chriss

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After a strong freshman season, Marquese Chriss is one of the players in the 2016 NBA Draft class with the highest ceiling. Can he capitalize on his potential? Is it possible for him to do so in a Nuggets uniform?

Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA draft in our Stiffs NBA draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all of the projected first round prospects.

Stiffs Draft Series


MARQUESE CHRISS

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three Point % Free Throw %
13.8 5.4 0.8 0.9 1.6 2.0 53.0 35.0 68.5


Strengths

Outside shooting - Chriss only shot 21/60, or 35.0 percent, from beyond the arc this past season but don't let the percentage become deceiving. His shot form is compact and easy to replicate, and he can shoot well from a standstill as well as on the move. He projects as a plus shooter from the outside and that is now a must at the power forward position.

Shot Blocking Instincts - Not only did Chriss block 1.6 shots per contest, but he altered countless others. He profiles mostly as a weak side shot blocker rather than a rim protector, but his athleticism will allow him to average a high block rate for years to come, potentially changing games.

Athleticism and Age - As mentioned previously, Chriss is incredibly athletic. He may be the best athlete in the entire draft, which affords him the ability to change the game in the open court, have lobs thrown to him, and make some plays other players just can't make. Also, at 18 years old, he has a lot of time to figure out the game of basketball. If things click together at the same time, he may become an all star.

Offensive Mentality - Lastly, Chriss has an aggressive mentality on offense to look for his shot when the shot clock runs low. Very few players in the draft have this kind of drive to score, and while many may perceive it to be selfishness, it also shows in his confidence. Chriss is confident in his own abilities facing up, in the post, and from the perimeter, and his mentality may help him become a future second or third option offensively.

Weaknesses

Fundamentals - There's no denying it: Marquese Chriss is raw on both ends. He shows a lot of tools, and his athleticism is boiling over, but the basics of the game elude him at this point. Making the simple pass, turning the ball over, boxing out, and shot selection have all plagued the Washington power forward. He's young, and many players learn when they come to the NBA, but they are still red flags.

Rebounding - Another red flag is his rebounding in general. If he wants to become a quality starting power forward, he would have to pull down about 7.0 rebounds per game. From DraftExpress:

Where that tends to show up the most vividly right now is as on the defensive glass. 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.

Now, Thaddeus Young was used as a comparison by DX in this quote, and he pulled down 9.0 rebounds per game this season, so rebounding can be learned. For now, it is currently a weakness in his game.

Focus - In a free flowing offense and defense at Washington, Chriss often made some boneheaded mistakes. He had a major tendency to foul when he wasn't supposed to do so, turn the ball over in critical situations, and get lost on defense. This could absolutely be attributed to being as young as he is, but it's never a good sign to lose focus as much as he did.

Pro Comparisons (Best to Worst):

Clifford Robinson - A great player in his prime, Robinson had a season where he averaged 21.3 points per contest as well as a season in which he accumulated 2.0 blocks. He spent most of his time as a power forward, but was athletic enough to move to small forward and even center. When his jump shot showed up, he became very dangerous.

Thaddeus Young - A current player, Young was a tweeter between forward spots for most of his career before he put on some weight and settled in at power forward. His outside jumper has become a weapon, and while he doesn't have the same athletic ability as Chriss, he's a model for how Chriss could improve his rebounding. The defense is still lacking, up the offensive versatility make him worth it.

Josh McRoberts - People forget just how athletic McRoberts was for most of his career. This would be Chriss failing to understand defensive concepts and becoming more than just an athletic threat who can shoot the occasional three pointer. The range of players is so wide because of Chriss' raw potential. If he doesn't ever find his game, he could be a career backup or even fifth big on most rosters.

Fit with the Nuggets

Chriss fits the timeline of the Nuggets very well, and his two main skills, shooting and blocking shots, mesh well with Emmanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic respectively. Chriss would likely have Kenneth Faried start in front of him, but coming off the bench and developing slowly may be the best course of action for the young power forward. He's very raw, and his defense and rebounding are still a work in progress. Putting him next to Jusuf Nurkic would be an ideal way to maximize his strengths while minimizing his weaknesses.

Projected Draft Spot

SB Nation - 11 (Orlando)

Draft Express - 11 (Orlando)

CBS Sports (Vecenie) - 8 (Sacramento)

Bleacher Report (Wasserman) - 8 (Sacramento)

NBADraft.net - 10 (Milwaukee)

Final Thoughts

Based on the consensus rankings for Marquese Chriss, it looks like drafting him 7th overall isn't exactly a stretch anymore. His tools have allowed him to shoot up draft boards, and because he played for the Washington Huskies and not the Kentucky Wildcats, he didn't receive a large spotlight.

That being said, his potential is through the roof, and in what figures to be a two player draft followed by many complementary starters and bench players, the all star ceiling on Chriss is nothing to sneeze at. He fits well with both big men on the Nuggets, and on a team where a first option may be difficult to find, it's quite possible that Chriss could fit well as a focal point on offense.

If I'm the Nuggets, I take a long time before passing on Chriss at 7th overall. The teams directly after Denver have a big need at power forward, and it wouldn't be a surprise to see him gone before pick 15. The Nuggets should do everything they can to select Chriss, and if Jamal Murray, Buddy Hield, and Dragan Bender are off the board, then I probably select Marquese Chriss.