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Straight Outta Seattle: The Curious Case Of Marquese Chriss

After a solid freshman season with the Washington Huskies, Marquesse Chriss has been rising up draft boards due to the intrigue surrounding his offensive versatility and athleticism.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When Marquese Chriss first stepped foot in Seattle to start his career with the Washington Huskies, he was looked at as a part of an extremely solid recruiting class for Lorenzo Romar. Joined by fellow four-star recruits Dejounte Murray, Noah Dickerson and Matisse Thybulle,, Chriss was seen as a piece inside the Huskies' huge rebuilding project building towards the eventual goal of being a Pac-12 powerhouse. Being part of a rebuilding project seemed to fit Chriss, as despite having amazing athleticism, he was an incredible raw prospect that needed to do a lot of work to become a fundamentally sound player

Despite those worries, Chriss still had an extremely successful season with the Huskies, as he became of the best freshmen in college basketball. Averaging 13.1 points, 5.4 boards and 1.7 blocks, Chriss showed promise as an extremely effective and dangerous two-way player. That was especially evident on the defensive end as Chriss was immediately able to utilize his supreme athleticism to become a shot-blocking machine.

With solid lateral quickness, Chriss has the knack for staying in front of any player that he encounters, while also having the explosiveness to block any shot that comes his way. Much of that defensive potential is showcased in the play below, as Chriss was able to come out of nowhere, leap up and block the transition cutter.

Despite that ability to make awe-inspiring defensive plays, Chriss might have more flaws than strengths on that end of the court. While his 1.7 blocks per game is definitely promising, Chriss' continued tendency to get in foul trouble was unfavorable. Chriss was one of the most foul prone players in the game, as he fouled out of 15 of Washington's 34 games, while committing four fouls in 10 other games.  A lot of those fouls came on the defensive end, as he regularly bit on pump fakes or just had to intentionally someone if they drove right past them.

Alongside of that, Chriss was an awful defensive rebounder, as he averaged just 4.4 defensive boards per 40 minutes. To put that in perspective, guards Wade Baldwin (4.9), Buddy Hield (5.1) and Gary Payton II (6.2) have higher averages than him. Many of those those flaws are due to him just showing lackluster effort as he rarely boxed-out or went for loose ball. That lack of a consistent motor should be really scary for teams as he might become a burden on the defensive end if he doesn't fix those major problems.

Chriss definitely projects to be a more dependable option as an offensive player. During his time with Washington, Chriss exhibited himself to be one of the most versatile front-court players in college basketball. Displaying an ability to post-up, make on and off-ball cuts, hit the perimeter jumper and surprisingly work the offensive glass. Through post-ups, Chriss looks comfortable with working on both the left and right block. In those situations, Chriss can score with a smooth hook shot or solid fadeaway jumper.

Working alongside fellow draft prospect Dejounte Murray, Chriss has a ton of promise. As an off-ball threat, Chriss was absolutely dominate due to that combination of quickness with hops that made him an amazing alley-oop threat. On-ball, Chriss is a dangerous threat due to his solid handles and quick first step, which could make him a tough guard for most front-court players.

That guard should be more difficult as Chriss has developed a pretty solid mid-range and perimeter shooting stroke. On 60 three-point attempts, Chriss shot a solid 35% which is made possible by his smooth shooting stroke. Chriss looks like a natural as a shooter with an innate ability to both work off-the-dribble and through catch and shoots. That solid stroke combined with his quickness allows Chriss to be an extremely dangerous pick-and-roll weapon.

While Chriss really struggles as a defensive rebounder, he's the complete opposite with how he works the offensive glass. On that end, Chriss actually showcases a lot of effort and energy as he pursues the ball once it bounces off the rim. He can utilize his athleticism to capture put backs or to just simply leap over the opposition. Those skills allowed Chriss to average 4.0 offensive boards per 40 minutes, which is the 6th highest average in this year's draft class.

That offensive versatility and superb athleticism as made Chriss one of thoe more intriguing prospects in this year's draft class. While he seemed to be stagnant in the position as a late lotto prospect, a recent DraftExpress mock draft put all of those projections out the window. That's because the site has Chriss going 3rd overall to the Boston Celtics. That vaults Chriss over a ton of highly-touted prospects including Jaylen Brown, Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn and Dragan Bender.

The intrigue surrounding Chriss' unique gifts and skills is definitely warranted, he also is one of the riskiest prospects in this year's draft class. His lack of a defensive IQ mixed with his inconsistent motor might make him completely unplayable . It's just that despite his fantastic athleticism and amazing jaw-dropping blocks, Chriss is a player that fouled out in 44% of Washington's games. Because if Pac 12 teams can consistently benefit off Chriss' struggles, it seems plausible that Chriss would just look worse against great NBA offenses and veteran front-court players.

Could a brilliant team like the Celtics be be able to  fix Chriss' biggest flaws? Definitely. But the risk that involves taking a player of Chriss' weaknesses seems too big when there's a handful of more polished players that might have even bigger upside. The previously mentioned Jaylen Brown and Dragan Bender stand as two of those examples.Bender is a perimeter-minded big with solid defensive instincts, while Brown is an athletic wing that can cut to the rim while showing great defensive potential.

Chriss is a solid player with a ton of potential, but an NBA team has to be extremely weary when they pick him. Because while a great player could definitely be in your hands, there's a similar chance that he'll never become the player that you'd hope he'd eventually become.