Washington's Marquese Chriss didn't start the year viewed as a one-and-done, possible lottery pick. That's how he finished it after putting together a season full of exciting flashes and surprising consistency.
He also went out with a bang, having averaged 20.8 points over his final four games.
Chriss, who doesn't turn 19 years old until July, will essentially be looking to sell himself based mostly on potential. He was still only moderately productive for a team that lost in the second round of the NIT.
However, his flashy upside could look extra attractive in 2016, given the perceived lack of star power and depth in this year's field. He's already hired an agent and should generate plenty of buzz during the predraft process.
|Marquese Chriss 2015-16 Numbers|
In a lineup led by two ball-dominant guards, Chriss averaged 13.8 points a game, or 22.1 per 40 minutes. The more impressive number, however, was his 56.8 percent two-point clip. Despite lacking both polish and strength, he managed to stay efficient inside the arc.
But he was also relatively accurate around the perimeter, having sunk 21 of 60 three-point attempts and 43.9 percent of his two-point jumpers (includes every two-pointer away from the rim), per Hoop-Math.com.
On the negative side, his rebounding numbers were significantly low, particularly at the defensive end. (More on that later.)
World-class athleticism ultimately acts as the driving force behind Chriss' enticing upside. The bounciest prospect in the draft, he is a stud athlete with superhero-like leaping ability. His springs and coordination translate to easy buckets above the rim off misses (46 putbacks in 34 games, per Hoop-Math.com), lobs, pick-and-rolls, catch-and-finishes and fast breaks.
He'll obviously need to get stronger, but his 6'9" height and 7'0" wingspan check out at power forward. Meanwhile, his quickness and encouraging perimeter game suggest he could eventually play minutes on the wing, where his size and length will be tough for 3s to match.
Chriss' 35 percent three-point clip won't win any awards, but his jumper leaves room for optimism. His stroke and mechanics look clean and fluid, and he's shown he can convert off spot-ups, pull-ups or specialty shots out of the post.
In doses, we've seen him knock down one-dribble stop-and-pops and fallaways in the mid-range.
Out of triple-threat position, he's demonstrated the handle and body control to make a move toward the basket and finish off one foot.
His scoring skill set covers major ground. At the other end, he's more of a playmaker than a lockdown, one-on-one defender. Having averaged 1.5 steals and 2.6 blocks per 40 minutes, Chriss did a nice job anticipating and reacting to passes and off-ball shot attempts.
Chriss' 6.5 fouls and 3.3 turnovers per 40 minutes highlight the fact he's a project with a questionable feel. Though young, he isn't particularly refined.
His 8.6 rebounds per 40 minutes and 10.7 percent rebounding percentage, per Sports-Reference.com, also rank last of any big on the first-round radar. How much will being a weak link on the defensive glass affect his NBA value?
For Chriss to evolve into the mismatch his best-case-scenario mirror reflects, the jumper will have to become a reliable, everyday weapon, given his lack of interior presence. Though his form and shot-making skills appear promising, he still shot 68.5 percent from the line and hit just 0.6 threes per game.
There are also some questions concerning his defensive fit and IQ. It's difficult to picture him guarding today's NBA wings. And though he can make the highlight-reel block, can he bang down low and hold his own in the paint?
Jeff Green/Rudy Gay
Chriss looks like a mix of a few different players, including the Los Angeles Clippers' Jeff Green, another big-time athlete who's spent time at both forward positions. Like Green, Chriss can convert from all three levels (three-point land, mid-range, at the rim). Unfortunately, Green has been erratic throughout his career, as there isn't one particular area on the floor he excels from. He also isn't a plus rebounder or defender.
On the other hand, Sacramento's Rudy Gay may be the player for Chriss to emulate. Though more of a traditional small forward, Gay made the transition to small-ball 4, which is the most likely NBA label for Chriss. The two share similar size, bodies and athleticism. To look like Gay offensively, Chriss will have to continue sharpening his in-between game and shot creativity around the perimeter.
"I’ve developed more away from the basket and not just as a post-up player and trying to do that and make that my game," Chriss told the Seattle Times' Percy Allen. "I can shoot the ball.”
Chriss shares many of the strengths and weaknesses possessed by Derrick Williams coming out of Arizona in 2011. They're both explosive combo forwards with face-up games out to the arc. Unfortunately for Williams, he got somewhat stuck between positions, without a consistent enough shooting stroke or the physicality to score in the post.
Still, Williams' explosiveness worked well for the New York Knicks in a specialist role. He was asked to come off the bench and inject some life and bounce into the team's front line. If Chriss' perimeter game plateaus, he might want to watch the tape from Williams' 2015-16 campaign.
I wouldn't go as far to say Chriss' ceiling reaches All-Star heights. He does have starter potential with a few more years of development though.
Given the unlikelihood of him ever becoming a strong rebounder or defender, he'll need his scoring to carry him. And that means becoming a reliable shooter and threatening one-on-one shot creator, both in the 15-24-foot range and post.
Chriss has some bust potential without a sweet spot on the floor. He isn't a force down low, and though we've seen flashes of perimeter play, his shooting and off-the-dribble scoring still have a long way to go.
He could still earn a living just by putting pressure on the rim, crashing the glass, running the floor and diving to the hoop. If his offensive game never comes together and his defense continues to drag, we'll probably be looking at a bench spark.
There is bound to be some team looking to make a splash rather than settling on a prospect whose ceiling tops out around role-player heights. Chriss should go somewhere in the No. 8 to No. 20 range. His bounce, size and offensive skill set fuel intriguing upside, though there is clear risk tied to his questionable fit/position, defense and feel for the game.
Though it will depend on where he ends up, Chriss seems like a candidate for the Developmental League as a rookie. I don't see a star in Chriss, but if he lands in the right spot, I'd bank on him moving his way up the depth chart to starting power forward by 2019.