Suns’ Marquese Chriss is aware of what he needs to improve on
PHOENIX — Across any sport at any level, there’s always that player or two that jumps out for the best and worst reasons. They’re responsible for either making the biggest play of the night or the dumbest play of the night.
Everyone can point out that player on their favorite team. Most of the time, it’s a younger player, and that’s the case with the Phoenix Suns and Marquese Chriss.
For what it’s worth, that’s not a shot at Chriss as a player. His main tagline as a prospect coming into the NBA Draft was his lack of basketball experience and overall court awareness. We knew this was coming.
Even so, Chriss’ flaws showed often. Among players who started at least 30 games last season, Chriss led the league in fouls per 36 minutes at 5.4, per NBA.com. For reference of how high that is, only nine players meeting that qualification averaged 4.5 or more fouls per 36 minutes.
On top of that, Chriss was the first rookie since DeMarcus Cousins in 2010 to accumulate at least 10 technical fouls.
It can be a frustrating journey to watch a player continuously make the same mistake, but Chriss, despite his insistence of having discussions with referees, speaks like a player who is very self-aware of what he needs to improve upon.
“I would say sometimes it’s a lack of focus and being out of position,” Chriss said of his mistakes. “Just trying to stay on task and trying to focus in and pick and choose when I go to get a block and when I stay straight up.”
Speaking of going for a block, it’s an element of Chriss’ game that grew greatly towards the end of the season. Chriss moved around the floor like a player who felt confident enough to take those chances on the weak side protecting the rim.
In his first 60 games of the season, Chriss averaged 1.2 blocks per 36 minutes, but in the last 22 games he played, that number jumped all the way to 2.0. You might say, well, he’s probably fouling more, but that’s not the case. Chriss managed to improve his block number while having his fouls drop per 36 minutes from 5.7 to 4.8 over those two time frames.
The numbers represent the overall improvement fans saw from Chriss once he seemed comfortable enough on an NBA floor.
Over those two periods, he also had his field goal percentage jump from 43 percent to 48.8 percent, his rebounding increase from 6.7 to 8.2 per 36 minutes and his scoring rise from 14.7 to 17.1 points per 36 minutes. Perhaps, most importantly, for his offensive role to stay consistent, he shot 35.4 percent from three-point range after a very worrisome 30.3 percent in his first 60 games.
Even with the rebounding numbers going up, Chriss is still in one of the lowest tiers as a rebounding power forward and it’s his major weakness outside of how he sees things on the floor.
When watching the 19-year-old, it doesn’t really add up as to how he can’t be a guy who grabs 10 a game. He can jump out of the gym, has a strong build and a very high motor.
Once again, Chriss showed an understanding of his own wrongdoings when asked how he can improve in that department.
“Just staying aggressive,” Chriss said. “I think sometimes I might slack off and not realize that I can go get it and the ball will bounce right in front of me.”
It’s not easy to see from his perspective when Chriss keeps making errors on the court, but when you hear him talk about himself, it’s not like most athletes, let alone one who isn’t 20 years old yet.
When talking to those who have been around the NBA a long time, they talk about Chriss having “it” when it comes to how good he can be in the future. With that being said, don’t be so quick to overlook the humble outlook he has on his own game, one that should benefit his progression greatly over the next couple of years in Phoenix.