Halfway through the first quarter against the Trail Blazers, Marquese Chriss received the ball at the top of the key as the initial play action rans its course. A series of behind the back dribbles preambled a fumbled streak into the paint. Just as it looked like the possession had gotten away from him, Chriss planted his right foot stiff, padded a hard dribble into the floor, and spun to a graceful finish.
Sequences like this are what makes Chriss, who had 4 points and 6 rebounds on 2-10 shooting that game, such a mesmerizing prospect. He obviously has the tools to be a bouncy fixture on defense and on the glass, coming within inches of swatting away looks in the paint on plenty of occasions. There is plenty for him to work on at this point, but the talent is there.
Last night against the Celtics was much of the same, except some of the second chance dunks that failed to thunder home against the Trail Blazers made their way in against Boston, creating a more robust 15 point, 14 rebound stat line. Stats are a great representative of success for the general fan, but Chriss doesn't rely on padding numbers to get himself going.
"When I dive for a loose ball, get a block, things like that kinda get me going more than self things like getting a layup or getting a jump shot," Chriss said last night.
If Chriss continues to embody that mantra, there is no reason why his floor could be no worse than a Tristan Thompson type player that will be able to step out and hit a jump shot in time. Thompson has the ability to switch defensive assignments all around the floor, assisting the Cavaliers defense from never bending. Chriss has a similar skill set, manning Jaylen Brown, Jordan Mickey and countless other assignments seamlessly last night. That is an extremely valuable skill to have, and will make life ten times easier for the Suns on defense -- especially when you pair him alongside the long limbs of Dragan Bender.
Chriss is still conscious of his overzealous fouling issue (he had six last night), but the coaching staff doesn't seem too worried about it.
"It's not really a big point of emphasis. I think I personally want to worry about it, like I was getting frustrated that I kept getting fouls. But it wasn't something that [the coaches] were pointing out," Chriss said.
Fouling has always been the biggest thorn in Chriss' side, but I like that the coaching staff is restricting the temptation to get on him about it this early on. It is obvious that he is aware of the problem, and is looking to self correct himself once he gets more reps under his belt.
Most of defending is about putting yourself in the right position without fouling, and you can tell that Chriss has a hard time staying in the right position long enough to get away from a possession clean. Maybe he should ask Tyler Ulis for some pointers on positioning and how to develop lightning quick hands.
Alright, that is enough talk about Chriss' shortcomings. I love this dude. He plays with an athletic fury at all times on the court, stifling shots at the rim on one end and finishing lobs at the other without skipping a beat. Even when there is no action to be had on the offensive glass, Chriss will still leap above his counterpart, trying to seek out any action he can get. For a young player that has still not entirely developed his body, he is not one who is afraid of a little contact if it means a victory is the end result.
"I'm a team player. I want to win all [of] the time. I hate losing, so I will do whatever I can not to lose," Chriss said.