The 2016 NBA Draft is less than a week away and a potential homecoming could be in store for former University of Washington power forward and Sacramento, California native Marquese Chriss.
Chriss, 18, is a hard to miss top-10 prospect—standing at 6-foot-9 and 225 pounds—and the Sacramento Kings happen to own the eighth overall pick in the draft.
The former Pleasant Grove High School standout was a one-and-done, yet left a considerable impression on opposing coaches in the Pac-12 Conference such as Wayne Tinkle of Oregon State University.
“I think he’s got a lot of upside. He really improved with his comfort away from the basket in his first year of college. I think if he can continue to increase his size and strength and conditioning with his athleticism and size, the sky is the limit,” Tinkle told Cowbell Kingdom. “It’s hard to find that combination … Maybe he’s a top-10 pick now because we’re all looking for size. He’s a guy in this draft that isn’t just a big plotter. He can get up and down the floor so I think he’s going to garner a lot of interest from teams.”
Chriss, who averaged 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game at Washington, has certainly attracted attention from teams all over the league, but has also expressed interest at the NBA Combine in joining his hometown team.
A majority of the action at the four was shared among Quincy Acy, who declined his player option to return to the Kings on April 20, DeMarcus Cousins and Willie Cauley-Stein, but Sacramento could benefit from having a true power forward, such as Chriss, next season.
This selection would put Chriss in the proximity of another Pac-12 coach in Cuonzo Martin of the University of California, Berkeley that was also left impressed by the young athlete after he posted 17 points, seven rebounds and four blocks against his Golden Bears on February 18.
“You’re talking about a guy that’s 6’9”-6’10”, athletic, runs the floor, attacks the rim, aggressive basketball player who played extremely hard on both ends of the floor,” Martin told Cowbell Kingdom. “He made shots from the perimeter, scored around the rim, made shots at the elbow and to see his skill level as a freshman in college, I was very impressed with the way he played and the way he competed.”
Chriss even proved to be capable of shooting a respectable 35 percent (21 of 60) from beyond the arc last season which is a facet of the game that continues to pick up steam in the NBA. This combination of versatility and enthusiasm could be exactly what the Kings need as they open their new arena in downtown Sacramento.
However, Chriss does enter the league as an unseasoned player with flaws that will need to be addressed and worked on by any team that drafts him. Chriss led the nation with 138 fouls and fouled out of 44 percent (15 of 34) of Washington’s games in the regular season which is something that Tinkle and others tried to take advantage of.
// “We wanted to try and attack him … he was a really good shot blocker off the ball, but we wanted to go at him. We felt that we maybe had a little bit of an advantage there and at least get him into foul trouble,” Tinkle said. “Pull him out away from the basket to allow our athletes to get to the rim and then defensively we just wanted to be physical with him and that was the key to kind of wear on him defensively. Not let him operate in and around the basket like he’d like to.”
This tendency to foul at inopportune times combined with his tunnel vision and low 0.8 assists per game average could possibly point to a low basketball IQ which is an affliction that has haunted the Kings’ organization for the past few years.
Years, it just so happens, is exactly what Martin believes Chriss needs to reach his full potential in the NBA.
“I think the experience and wisdom that he gains over time, he’ll continue to get better, but I think right now watching him, he does a lot of things well. He scores in the post, he runs the floor, shoots the basketball,” Martin said. “I think with him it’s just reps and that’s with any good player trying to be a great player, it’s just reps and consistently doing the things that make you successful every day … there’s no doubt in my mind that he can have a 15-year career because he’s a good athlete. Probably one of the better athletes if not the best athlete in the draft. He has great size, length, he competes hard on both ends of the floor so anytime you have that combination with his youth, you have the chance to be a special talent.”
Chriss, who turns 19 on July 2, will earn the opportunity in four days to further his knowledge and skill at the professional level—the only question that remains is will it be with the Sacramento Kings?