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Best case/worst case: Marquese Chriss

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What can we expect from the most surprising name on the Warriors roster?

Los Angeles Lakers v Golden State Warriors Photo by Noah Graham/NBAE via Getty Images

With the NBA season starting this week, we’re running through mini previews of the Golden State Warriors’ 16 players, focusing on what their best and worst case scenario is for the upcoming year. Next up is big man Marquese Chriss. You can check out the other best case/worst case articles below:

Ky Bowman
Alec Burks
Willie Cauley-Stein

Preseason stats

5 games, 9.4 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.4 assists, 1.0 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game

72.7% 2FG, 14.3% 3FG, 85.7% FT, 66.8% true-shooting

2018-19 stats (Rockets and Cavaliers)

43 games, 4.2 points and 3.3 rebounds per game

47.2% 2FG, 22.2% 3FG, 71.1% FT, 45.5% true-shooting

Role on the 2019-20 Warriors

Marquese Chriss is the most unlikely member of the Golden State Warriors. His spot among the 16 players to make the opening day roster is most surprising.

I said earlier this offseason - many, many times - that the roster was essentially set. The moral, as always: Read me, but don’t listen to me.

Chriss’ role will be big to start the season. The Warriors kept him on the roster over the recently-waived Alfonzo McKinnie partially due to Chriss’ potential, but largely due to a lack of players at the center position. Willie Cauley-Stein is injured. Kevon Looney, while likely ready to go for the opener, missed the bulk of camp with an injury. Alen Smailagic is not ready for NBA minutes yet, and oh yeah, also injured.

Enter Chriss, who likely is, against all odds, the team’s starting center when they open the season on Thursday against the Los Angeles Clippers. His role is to provide quality minutes at the center position, and hold things down until the team is healthy.

Best case scenario

There’s a reason that the Phoenix Suns used the eighth pick in the 2016 NBA Draft on Chriss. Just ignore the fact that the Suns used the fourth pick that same year on Dragan Bender. And the fact that they used the fourth pick the next year on Josh Jackson. And the fact that they used the first pick the next year on DeAndre Ayton, with Luka Doncic and Trae Young still on the board. Ignore all that.

Chriss entered the league oozing with potential. He’s tall and lengthy, with some of the best athleticism the league has to offer at the position.

The Warriors will need to help him improve in a big way, but the preseason returns are promising. Steph Curry, D’Angelo Russell, and Draymond Green should give Chriss plenty of open looks at the rim, where he can show off his athleticism and easily get behind the defense.

He rebounds well, though his defense has been atrocious early in his career. If Green, Looney, Ron Adams, and Jarron Collins can turn Chriss into a serviceable defensive player, and he plays his role on offense, he could turn into a serious weapon, not only for the 2019-20 squad, but future Warriors teams as well.

Worst case scenario

When the Houston Rockets traded for Chriss at the start of last year, it seemed like a great chance for him to show the potential that Phoenix couldn’t untap. Playing in a Clint Capela role alongside James Harden and Chris Paul felt ideal for a young rim-runner like Chriss.

Instead of getting easy looks, he shot just 32.4% from the field for Houston, and was dumped after 16 games.

That’s the fear with Chriss. He’s never displayed great intuition or basketball IQ, and against regular season defenses, he tends to get lost. If that happens, he continues his trend of well-below league average efficiency, which doesn’t cut it from the center position. Add the sloppy and inattentive defense that Chriss has had for his first three years in the league, and it’s easy to see why the Warriors gave him a non-guaranteed contract.

If he looks more like the player we saw from 2016 through 2019, rather than the one we saw in five preseason games, then he could be cut as soon as the team is healthy.