Warriors: Could Marquese Chriss be the starting center next season?

Warriors, Marquese Chriss (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
Warriors, Marquese Chriss (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Marquese Chriss has managed to turn his career around with the Golden State Warriors. And now could the former draft bust be a long-term starter for his new team?

The Golden State Warriors struck gold earlier last year when they decided to bring in 2016 eighth overall draft pick Marquese Chriss to compete for a roster spot in training camp.

Chriss was given a non-guaranteed deal and asked to fight for his job in the preseason. After earning praise from his teammates and coaching staff alike, Chriss surprisingly beat out veteran wing Alfonzo McKinnie for the final roster spot.

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And due to extensive injuries to the Warriors big men, Chriss would end up seeing plenty of time in the rotation quickly establishing himself as one of the few bright spots in an otherwise dark season.

Unfortunately, the 22-year-old fell victim to the numbers game in January and was released due to cap/two-way restrictions. It seemed as though some team would snatch him up quickly given the progress he had made with Golden State.

But Chriss refused to sign anywhere else and instead returned to the Warriors on a two-way deal soon after his release. That two-way deal would be converted to a two-year contract following a few deadline trades.

The most notable of which, at least for Chriss’ sake, came when the team shipped Willie Cauley-Stein away to the Dallas Mavericks a little over a week before the deadline.

After playing most of the season as a bench contributor, Chriss has been asked to start on a nightly basis since Cauley-Stein’s departure. And he’s rewarded the Warriors with some of the best basketball of his career.

In many ways, he’s been exactly what Cauley-Stein was supposed to be and more.

Given his success, the question must be posed. Could Marquese Chriss be the Warriors starting center when all is set and done next season?

The Athletic’s Marcus Thompson seems to think so. He had the following to say about the possibility of Chriss starting next year.

"“He fits the mold of what the Warriors want to complement Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green: a big who can run the floor, finish at the rim, pass comfortably and rebound. Chriss has improved steadily since joining the Warriors and lately — after being signed to a two-year, $2.5 million deal, the second year non-guaranteed — has looked especially comfortable and productive.”"

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Thompson referred to Chriss as a “big who can run the floor, finish at the rim, pass comfortably, and rebound.” That should sound familiar as it’s exactly what Cauley-Stein was intended to be.

The Warriors loved the idea of adding an athletic rim-runner and lob threat and Chriss has provided that and beyond. Suddenly, the prospect of a starting five featuring Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins, Draymond Green, and Chriss seems plausible.

And it makes financial sense too.

The fearsome foursome of Curry, Thompson, Wiggins, and Green will account for over $130 million in cap space next season with a leaguewide salary cap of just $115 million.

They’ll have a mid-level exception for around $6 million and a $17 million trade exception from the Andre Iguodala deal, but their options to add additional role players will be limited.

Of course, having a top draft pick in the 2020 NBA Draft will help, but the Warriors shouldn’t feel the need to reach on a center if the value isn’t there. Chriss is just fine starting at the five — he’s proven that he could handle the increased workload.

The Warriors need all the financial flexibility that they could get and Marquese Chriss and his under $2 million cap hit next season could prove very valuable in the long-run.

Chriss has managed to turn his career around with the Warriors and the fans adore him because of it.

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