NBA Draft expert says UW’s Marquese Chriss could go in top 5
Many pundits are dubbing Thursday’s NBA draft class as “average” overall. And ESPN draft expert Fran Fraschilla told 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton that should benefit both former University of Washington stars who left after their freshman years.
The top two picks – held by the Sixers and Lakers, respectively – are reportedly set with a pair of freshman forwards: LSU’s Ben Simmons followed by Duke’s Brandon Ingram. But then the fireworks could begin.
Fraschilla said there are plenty of “hit-or-miss-potential” players within the first 10 picks, but there may be none with a higher ceiling or basement than power forward Marquese Chriss, who spent one up-and-down season with the Huskies.
“He can go in the top five,” Fraschilla said. “… He’s a unique athlete. Let’s face it, he might be the best athlete in this draft. He also complements that at 6 foot 9 with showing an ability late in the year to shoot behind the arc. So those are the positives. He’s got elite NBA athleticism. Not just above-average, but top-2-percent athleticism.”
But there are also concerns. Chriss, who is one of the younger players in the draft, was not a top-50 prep prospect – a rarity for freshmen who leave school early – and fouled out of 11 of his first 20 games. Fraschilla said some scouts also question his basketball IQ.
“This is the perfect example of a guy who is benefiting from a below-average draft in a sense that a Phoenix at four, maybe Denver at seven, rolls the dice and says, ‘This kid we think has a chance to be a star,’” he said.
Fraschilla said Chriss’ situation is reminiscent of Pacers All-Star Paul George, who didn’t get much national recognition in college because his Fresno State squad didn’t make the NCAA tournament.
“That’s what you have in this kid: kind of hidden a little bit but now all of a sudden on radars over the last two months because of this elite athleticism,” Fraschilla said.
“If the character stuff checks out, which I understand it has, we might be looking at a guy five years from now that we ask, ‘Why was this guy not the first pick in this draft?’” Fraschilla added. “But we can go the other way, too, because he’s so young and the sample size is so small right now.”
If Phoenix selects Chriss, it’s also possible the Suns could be looking at the other freshman Husky, Dejounte Murray, at pick No. 13.
Fraschilla called Murray an “interesting guy” because he meets all the physical requisites of an NBA guard – 6 foot 5 and can play either guard position, showing the ability to consistently drive through the lane and finish at the rim. The concern: shooting.
“The one major question mark is he shot 29 percent from behind the arc last year,” Fraschilla said. “And in a league right now that values outside shooting because it creates great spacing for offense, that’s going to be the bugaboo. But again, when you’re picking 13th, 14th, 15th, knowing the way this draft is set up not to be deep, you roll the dice on this kid because he’s got some NBA-type of attributes that you can get excited about.”
Fraschilla said it will be important for the general manager and coach to be in alignment when picking either Husky, since both have skills that need refinement and patience.
“A lot of it depends if (Murray) goes to a team that’s in a rebuild mode,” he said. “I think it almost benefits both he and Chriss because the coach is not under the gun to go deep in the playoffs. And I think that’s where you are with Phoenix and a number of teams that could select either one of these guys.”
And for all of the old-school SuperSonics fans, Fraschilla believes they should watch Providence point guard Kris Dunn, whom he compares both physically and mentally to a young Gary Payton.
“Gary scored a lot of points at Oregon State and was a little bit better shooter than this kid, but Kris Dunn has that Gary Payton – he’s got enough junk for the entire yard. I think he’ll be selected No. 3 by Boston or the team that trades with Boston.”