However, just 21 years old, Chriss is an affordable player with a lot of developmental time and upside. To learn more about him, we quizzed Dave King, site manager for Bright Side of the Sun. You can follow him on Twitter @DaveKingNBA.
Thank you for participating, Dave.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: Why did the Marquese Chriss experiment not work in Phoenix?
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: Background: From the start, the Suns were so intent on finding their power forward of the future, they rolled the dice on taking Dragan Bender AND Chriss in the Top 8 of the same draft. Both 19 years old, completely undeveloped but full of promise. But the two players couldn’t be more opposite of each other, and apparently the Suns front office and coaching staff were split on which was the better prospect. So they took both, and have likely regretted it ever since. Judging solely by actual observation, it appears that new-at-the-time coach Earl Watson was the biggest Chriss fan, while others preferred Bender. Watson made Chriss the permanent starter after just seven games, and gave him every opportunity to succeed. Chriss made second-team All-Rookie as part of one of the worst draft classes in history. Better than Bender at least!
Why didn’t it work? Because Chriss is completely raw and has low basketball IQ, meaning that absolutely nothing is instinctual for him. Even his high-flying athleticism failed him when he couldn’t get his brain moving as fast as his feet, failing to complete more lob dunks than a super-athletic guy should ever fail at. He also never developed his promising stand-still three-point shot, making less than 30% in year two while fellow disappointee Bender made 38%. Beyond those two “skills”, he really never showed anything.
When even his biggest fan, coach Watson, benched him due to poor play, poor focus and poor eating habits to start his second season, and then got fired before bringing him back into the light, Chriss went into a shell from which he never really emerged. His year-20 season was much worse than his year-19 season. He was even suspended for a game for arguing with a coach about conditioning (i.e. not wanting to).
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What does Chriss need to do to salvage his career in Houston?
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: Chriss needs to grow up -- physically, mentally and with basketball skills. He doesn’t play hard all the time, and retreats when things don’t go well. Mike D’Antoni is a players coach, so that can help Chriss. Quese needs encouragement and constant attention to succeed. And also, he needs good skill development coaching. The Suns never taught him anything - either he couldn’t listen or the coaches were bad. Or both. Houston coaches will have to find what makes him tick, and keep that thing wound up.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is his biggest strength and weakness?
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: Biggest strength: Natural athleticism. He can physically do anything he wants on the court. And he (so far) has a magical ability not to get hurt as often as his body ends up on the floor (not from hustle, per se, but just tumbling unexpectedly)
Biggest weaknesses: Basketball
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is his biggest risk?
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: HIs biggest risk is that he never matures and never becomes more than he is right now: maddeningly unskilled with a low motor. Truly, his biggest risk is not getting that second NBA contract.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: Who is a player that Chriss is comparable to?
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: Rockets fans might remember Stromile Swift? Yeah that’s basically Chriss. Compare their first two seasons.
There have been lots of other guys like Chriss in NBA history. Tyrus Thomas is another one that comes to mind.
Jeremy Brener, The Dream Shake: What is your projection for Chriss next season?
Dave King, Bright Side of the Sun: He will either shine like a diamond, or will disappear from the rotation as the Rockets fight for the postseason. The Chriss that played for Phoenix is tantalizing but infuriating. He cannot be trusted to make open threes, let alone contested ones. He doesn’t rim-run consistently either, often lingering in place after a play is over on either end (which means he’s bad on transition defense too). He will even linger in place in the middle of a play, losing his man defensively.
I really hope Quese shines like a diamond, and you guys can help that. He’s constantly on social media and is unduly influenced by what’s said about him, so your best chance at a great season is to make sure all the stories and social comments about him are positive.