As the eighth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Marquese Chriss was largely seen as a player who failed to live up to expectations. But given his strong performance for the Golden State Warriors in the weeks leading up to the league’s mid-March hiatus, a new report hinted that the team expects him to play a key role going forward as one of their top big men.
As quoted by Bleacher Report, Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle wrote on Tuesday that the Warriors see Chriss as a “potential franchise building block” who could contribute as a “rim-running” inside scorer, defender, and passer at the center position. This, per the former publication, is despite the expectation that the Warriors (15-50 as of March 11) are targeting 7-foot-1-inch University of Memphis center James Wiseman in the 2020 NBA Draft.
“The front office is so optimistic about his future, according to multiple sources, that it would be comfortable entering next season with him as the starting center,” Letourneau continued. “This makes the Warriors less apt to use an early pick on Wiseman—or any other big man, for that matter—than some pundits might assume.”
Prior to joining the Warriors for the 2019-20 season, Chriss was seen as a disappointing player in his first two seasons playing for the Phoenix Suns and in the 2018-19 campaign, where he split time between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Houston Rockets. This season, he has averaged 9.3 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, and 1.1 blocks while starting 21 out of 59 games for the Warriors, with averages of 13.6 points, 10 rebounds, 3.4 assists, and 1.2 blocks in five March games.
— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) May 11, 2020
Talking about the reasons behind Chriss’ improvement, Letourneau wrote that the 22-year-old has mostly been used by Golden State head coach Steve Kerr as a more traditional center rather than as a “stretch four,” or a power forward with more of an outside game than an inside game. Last month, ESPN‘s Zach Lowe also had high praise for the big man, noting that he has dramatically improved as a passer and learned how to break some of his bad habits as a defender since signing with the Warriors.
While the Warriors are expected to return to form in the 2020-21 season, provided All-Star guards Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are both healthy after missing most — if not all — of the current campaign due to injuries, Chriss isn’t the only recent addition the organization is reportedly hoping to retain. Previous reports suggested that forward/guard Andrew Wiggins — who was acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves for D’Angelo Russell ahead of the February trade deadline — is expected to remain in Golden State as the team’s starting small forward for the 2020-21 season.