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NBA Draft Prospect Preview: Marquese Chriss, the future power forward

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

For the rest of the month, we'll be previewing some prospects that the Raptors could consider taking at #9. We start with Marquese Chriss out of the University of Washington.

Marquese Chriss

University of Washington (FR) - 6'10 - 233 lbs - born July, 1997

13.8 PPG - 5.4 RPG - 0.8 APG - 1.6 BLK - 0.9 STL (53%-35%-68.5% splits)

Complete stat breakdown

Two months ago, a lightly heralded prospect like Marquese Chriss would've been a good shout for the late lottery. Playing in the Pac-12 for the Washington Huskies (same school as Terrence Ross and not a traditional powerhouse conference in the NCAA), Chriss put together a solid, if unspectacular, season away from the limelight.

Measured at a 6'10 in shoes, with a 7' wingspan and 8'9 standing reach, Chriss has the prototypical size and length teams look for in a prototypical power forward. Over the past two years, he's packed on 20 lbs of muscle to get his weight up to 233 lbs. Still only 18, he also has a lot of room to grow and a good frame to fill in to as he exits his teens. The physical profile for Chriss is as impressive as anyone can hope for -- he's also widely considered a freak athlete of the highest order. With a max vertical of 39 inches that manifested itself from time to time in the form of blocked shots and jaw-dropping athletic plays, teams will look for his mobility to translate to the NBA level as well.

While the measurables are remarkable and the potential is through the roof, Chriss also had a fairly productive year. He showed flashes of a face-up game, a post-up game, some work in the pick and roll and shot the college 3 at 35%. He's still learning the nuances of defending and rebounding though, as he averaged only 8 rebounds per 40 minutes and tended to coast and get lost on defence. Again, it's important to remember his age in this regard. Averaging 1.5 blocks and a steal per game speak to his ability to start filling out the stat sheet once the mental side of the game catches up to his raw ability.

There are some real concerns with his profile, and most of that has to do with his lack of defensive discipline and polish. From DraftExpress:

He has the quickness needed to stay in front of nearly everyone he encounters, and the explosiveness to block a decent amount of shots, but lacks the fundamentals, discipline and consistent effort required to take advantage of that. Opposing coaching staffs regularly targeted him in isolation situations, and found a lot of success doing so, as he would typically either commit a foul or give up a basket.

Overall, Chriss is definitely a project who would take a year or two to be ready to contribute as a two-way player, if his defense ever ends up developing as his tools suggest it should. For those reasons, his stock has been on the rise in a relatively shallow draft at the top:

DraftExpress CBS Sports ESPN SI
3 8 7 9 4

The Fit

Chriss profiles as a 4 in the NBA long-term and the Raptors have a gaping hole there that mercifully won't be filled by Luis Scola any more. Scola sported a team-worst -2.7 net rating after starting 76 games this year. The power forward fix could be as easy as just playing Patrick Patterson with the starters, but he's shown that he's inexplicably much more comfortable playing with the bench unit and in closing lineups.

Next to Jonas Valanciunas, a mobile, rim-protecting, defensive ace of a power forward in the mould of a Serge Ibaka is the ideal fit. To be clear, Marquese Chriss isn't there yet. He's shown far more offensive polish and variety to his game than on the defensive end of the court. It's a selection that'd be made on potential more than anything, but with the Raptors getting a chance to pick in the lottery as a playoff team, it may be okay to shoot for the stars.

The Verdict

I'm for it. Chriss has as high a ceiling as almost any prospect in this draft. The Raptors have a D-League team in close proximity to help him develop, and there is no pressure on him to contribute right off the bat if he isn't ready. Chriss is a versatile, sharp-shooting, athletic power forward who will need to be groomed into a two-way ace. With his relative youth in mind too, the Raptors should definitely take a chance on him should he fall to #9.

What do you think?