PHOENIX SUNS

Suns draft Marquese Chriss after trading Kings for No. 8 pick

Jun 23, 2016, 5:34 PM | Updated: Jun 24, 2016, 12:26 pm

The Phoenix Suns took a gamble — arguably the biggest of the 2016 NBA Draft class — by selecting Marquese Chriss out of Washington. But they didn’t do so with their No. 4 draft pick.

Instead, the Suns used their fourth overall pick to select Croatian power forward Dragan Bender before trading their No. 13 pick — acquired in the Markieff Morris trade — No. 28 pick and 2014 first-round Bogdan Bogdanovic to nab Chriss, the 18-year-old Washington forward, at No. 8, reported Arizona Sports 98.7 FM’s John Gambadoro.

Phoenix also shipped a 2020 second-round pick to Sacramento.

Chriss shot up draft boards following a freshman season in which he averaged 13.7 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game.

Chriss also fills a need — the Suns entered the offseason without a power forward under contract.

Chriss becomes the fifth Suns selection in the top 10 of the draft in the past 15 years, joining Amar’e Stoudemire, Luol Deng (traded to Chicago), Alex Len and Bender. He’s the highest selection for the franchise since Phoenix picked Armen Gilliam No. 2 overall in 1987.

Chriss is viewed as a high-risk, high-reward pick. His production in college was greatly hampered by foul trouble that spanned most of the 2015-16 season, and that foul trouble was very much due to his overly-emotional play and lack of positional instincts.

At 6-foot-10 and 233 pounds, Chriss is considered the best athlete in the draft.

He put up a 38-inch max vertical jump at the NBA Draft Combine and used his leaping ability to run the court, finish in transition and block drivers at the rim for the Huskies, who missed the NCAA Tournament despite being led by Chriss and fellow first-round pick Dejounte Murray, a freshman point guard.

Despite Chriss’ lack of feel that might be attributed to him beginning his basketball career as an eighth-grader, not to mention his defensive rebounding rate that was lower than Murray’s last year, the forward showed flashes of brilliance with the ball in his hands.

Chriss can face up and shot 35 percent from three-point range for Washington. But he can also use that ability to blow by contesting defenders and use a surprising handle to maneuver through traffic and to the rim.

While he may compare himself to small forward Rudy Gay and have the potential to play both forward spots, Chriss is very much considered the new-age faceup power forward and despite his lack of awareness possesses the athleticism to switch screens and cover guards laterally.

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