You know how Devin Booker finally became the first All-Star the Phoenix Suns have boasted since Steve Nash retired almost 10 years ago?
Oh sure, some former Suns have gotten awards in recent years, including members of the Hydra lineup of Goran Dragic and Isaiah Thomas (All-Star, All-NBA) and Eric Bledsoe (All-Defensive), but the Suns franchise has been absent from awards for the past eight years. Until now.
Heck the Suns have even been missing from the silliest of well-intentioned awards, like Zach Lowe’s Luke Walton All-Stars team he names each April. Not since (if I recall correctly) he praised the grit and “fight” of the Morrii one spring has he given a nomination to a Sun, past or present.
This week, however, Lowe decided to recognize the relative resurgence and feel-good story of Marquese Chriss by naming him to his 2020 Luke Walton All-Stars team — a tribute to guys who fight for their NBA lives before landing in a role that suits them.
Every year, there are guys who emerge from the shadows and find an unexpectedly important role on a team. The Suns have had a few deserving in the past. It doesn’t mean this player is a star or will become a star, but that they rose from obscurity to a real NBA role and got some headlines for it.
This past year with the injured, league-worst Warriors (15-50), the 6’9” Chriss was allowed to thrive in a center role where he didn’t have to do much more than traditional big man things: rebound, block shots and finish at the rim.
On the Warriors, Chriss was only 15th in minutes per game but started 21 of 59 games and was second in field goal percentage (54.5%), tied for first in rebounds per game (6.2), and third in blocks per game (1.1). He didn’t take many outside shots or score much at all, but by the latter part of the year he had solidified an important role.
Yes, the Warriors were bad this year, losing 50 of 65 games. And no, Chriss was not a star or even one of their best players.
But he just may have found his niche in a JaVale McGee / Kevon Looney type role, and who knows he might be the first McDonough 1st round pick to appear in an NBA playoff game (in a race with T.J. Warren/Pacers and the still-remaining Suns) in 2021.
Joining Chriss on this years list are Duncan Robinson (Heat), Doug McDermott (Pacers), Dorian Finney-Smith (Dallas Mavericks), Christian Wood (Pistons), Michael Carter-Williams (Magic), Ben McLemore (Rockets), Georges Niang (Jazz) and Chris Boucher (Raptors). An island of misfits, but all at or nearing the end of their NBA careers before a resurgence in the right system with the right coach and surrounding players.