Golden State Warriors big man Marquese Chriss has played his way into a long-term role with the team and now looks like an indispensable member of the roster.
That’s a testament to both his growth as a player on the court and as a person off the court.
Chriss came to Golden State treading water with his NBA career hanging in the balance. And it’s safe to say he didn’t come with the most favorable reputation.
After two failed seasons in Phoenix and one uneventful one split between the Houston Rockets and Cleveland Cavaliers, Chriss had rightfully earned the title of being a draft bust.
Not only had the former eighth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft not lived up to expectations, but he was also fighting for a roster spot. Chriss had earned a reputation as a quick-tempered, low-IQ player with outstanding athleticism but no real drive to succeed.
Whether that’s fair or not isn’t for him or really anyone else to decide. But it was his reality.
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So when the Warriors decided to give Chriss a shot to make the roster out of training camp, the talented big man saw this as an opportunity to reinvent himself. This was his chance to remake his image and change his legacy.
But making an NBA roster on a non-guaranteed contract is no easy task.
Fortunately, a slew of injuries forced Chriss into action and he showed enough promise for the Warriors to retain him going into the regular season — a decision they undoubtedly are happy they made.
Chriss has had a career year on track for career marks in field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage, and offensive and defensive ratings. Only Omari Spellman and Ky Bowman have a better plus-minus than him and the Warriors are only being outscored by an average of 2.1 points per game with him on the court.
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For context’s sake, the Warriors are being outscored by an average of 6.9 points per game with Draymond Green on the floor.
He’s found ways to harness his athletic ability on both sides of the court becoming a smarter, more reactionary player in the process. Chriss has improved as a pick-and-roll defender becoming more patient and reacting rather than being aggressive with a false first step.
It’s helped him gain the respect of his teammates and coaches alike who see the extra work he’s been putting in. He’s always had the athleticism to defend multiple positions well, but his mental processing and defensive IQ are better now than at any point in his career.
Chriss has become a truly valuable role player for a Warriors squad looking for any semblance of optimism in the midst of a disastrous season. And now, it appears as though he’ll be penciled in as a bench contributor on next year’s squad.
For a while, it seemed as though Chriss was destined to be let go come mid-January. With the aforementioned Ky Bowman’s NBA eligibility set to expire on his two-way contract before long, Chriss seemed like the odd man out.
Chriss was the only member of the roster without a guaranteed contract meaning that he would likely need to be let go for Bowman to remain on the active roster. But with Chriss looking like a key role player of the future, it’s getting harder and harder to justify just cutting him.
Bowman will be here next year no matter what. And whether he plays out the rest of the season in the G-League or in the NBA, that fact will not change.
But the Warriors don’t have that same luxury with Chriss.
They need him on the active roster to keep him around long-term. And despite their desire to play Bowman in the NBA down the stretch of a meaningless season, the Warriors can’t really justify cutting Chriss to make room.
Chriss has played himself into a roster spot and a long-term future with the Warriors.
And he’s changing his reputation one game at a time.