Marquese Chriss NBA Draft Scouting Report

Over the next couple of days I’ll be breaking down the scouting report for guys entering the NBA Draft. We’ll avoid guys like Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram since we know who they are. If there’s someone specific you want let me know @barstoolreags. All video clips are courtesy of Synergy and/or YouTube. There will be a lot of analytical stats, so yeah I know, nerd.  

Today we’ll look at:

Marquese Chriss – Washington

6’10, 233 lbs, 18 years old

Projected: No. 3 (DraftExpress) No. 7 (NBADraft)

Compared to: Tyus Thomas/Antonio McDyess (NBA Draft)

Background:

Chriss is an interesting prospect as he came out of somewhat nowhere to be in real contention for the Celtics to take at No. 3. He’s probably the most athletic player in the Draft and being just 18 years old there’s plenty of time for him to develop. Chriss averaged 13.7 ppg and 5.4 rpg last season for Washington.

Strengths:

I mentioned it a second ago, but his biggest strength is his athleticism. The second most common play he was a part of last season was offensive rebound put backs at over 15%. He graded out in the top-12 percent in the country in this category, scoring on 70% of these possessions. More importantly he rarely turned it over after grabbing an offensive rebound, turning it over just 4% of the time. Watch on this play how quick he is off his feet and tracks the ball before the easy finish.

Combining with his athleticism, perhaps the biggest strength for Chriss is the fact he can stretch the floor. At 6’10” he has a soft touch from behind the arc and with the way the NBA is going with the small ball era, he can be the stretch five that leaves the lane open. Watch Washington’s play here. Chriss reads the defense by Ryan Anderson here, who cheats down in the post to help on the drive. Chriss reads the play and steps out tho the 3-point line. He has a smooth stroke and a quick release, which will be pivotal for him in the NBA.

Chriss also has the ability to beat people off the dribble. He has a quick first step, allowing him to get by defenders his size. Again, in the NBA this is starting to become the second most valuable position after a point. In this play against Stanford, Chriss comes to set a high ball screen – what he’ll be doing a lot of in the NBA –  before catching the ball in the high post. First hing he does is square up to the hoop – he prefers placing face-up opposed to his back to the basket. After a jab step, he shows his quick first step, especially against other big men to get into the paint. From here he uses his body to feel the defender and goes to a jump hook. This is the exact type of play that has him climbing up the draft boards.

According to Synergy, Chriss grades excellent overall offensively, in the half court, against man, on offensive rebounds and out of isolations. What this means is he’s in the top 20% in the country in those categories, mostly based on points per possession. Despite being incredibly athletic, he’s not as raw as most prospects are with his style of play.

Weaknesses:

Shockingly enough the biggest weakness to Chriss’ game is his defense. With this athleticism you’d expect him to be a monster on the defensive side of the ball but he grades as an average defender on Synergy and poor facing a spot-up offense.

Take example this play, where this happens way too much for Chriss. He’s guarding a player on the wing, who doesn’t really move. Chriss tries to go for the block while helping, leaving a corner 3 wide open. Okay, not the end of the world, but it will hurt you in the NBA. However, he doesn’t recover instead opting to stay inside and not box out. He gets outbodied and can’t move Chris Boucher of Oregon, who weighs less than 200 pounds:

 

Opposing coaches took notice to this and targeted Chriss in spot up and iso situations 70% of the time when he was on the floor. Despite Chriss being an above average shot blocker, they knew he’d fall asleep or not compete defensively. Obviously in the NBA, teams will look to pick-and-pop or iso against Chriss as well, leaving him vulnerable until he picks up the defense.

On top of that, he’s a poor rebounder for his size and athleticism. Per-40 minutes, he averaged just 4.1 defensive rebounds a game, which doesn’t make a ton of sense. For how well he goes after the ball on the offensive side of the game, defensively he simply couldn’t grab a board. In fact, according to DraftExpress, he’ll be the second worst first-round defensive rebounding rate power forward in 30 years, ahead of only Thaddeus Young.

Offensively he needs to stop turning the ball over. He played just about 25 minutes per game this year and averaged 2.0 turnovers per game, which is way too high for his position. With the NBA likely being more spread out, his turnovers should go down as he won’t have to face possible double teams, especially early in his career.

Draft Stock: No one has had a better last month or so than Chriss, who was a borderline lottery pick to now almost a lock for the top-10. Some projections have him going to the Celtics at No. 3, who can afford a miss with the talent they already have combined with the rest of their draft picks. For the Celtics though, Stevens like to turn teams over and run the floor, which is a weird fit for Chriss. Obviously, he is athletic enough to run and finish, but can he help turn anyone over?

Projection: I don’t think he’ll go as high as No. 3 – I think he’ll fall somewhere between No. 7-10 barring injuries/news that we can’t project. It’s hard to imagine a better comparison than Tyrus Thomas – though it’s somewhat lazy as Thomas is the go-to comparison for tall, athletic, raw and somewhat skinny prospects, so we’ll go with Channing Frye. Not the 33-year old Channing Frye we see now, but when he came into the league, Frye could step out and shoot it, but struggled on the defensive side of the ball. I think Chriss will have a higher career arc than Frye, but it’s better than saying Tyrus Thomas.

I expect Chriss to play in at least one All-Star Game during this career and don’t think he’ll spend time in the D-League to prepare. It wouldn’t shock me if a team in the backend of the lottery or just outside of it trades up to take him around No. 8. If he falls to No. 9, Toronto would absolutely take him and he’d be a perfect fit. He can start the power forward spot (see ya Luis Scola) or come off the bench for Patrick Patterson and still stretch the floor.  He should excel on the offensive side in high pick-and-rolls whether he’s catching a lob or popping to the three.