Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman has quite a few off-season decisions to make this summer, and among them is what to do with will-be unrestricted free agent Marquese Chriss.
An athletic forward, Marquese Chriss was dealt to the Cleveland Cavaliers from the Houston Rockets this past February in a reported three-team deal which sent Alec Burks to the Sacramento Kings and Iman Shumpert to Houston.
Since joining the Cavs, Chriss has done little to demonstrate what made him the eighth overall pick by the Phoenix Suns just a few years ago in 2016.
Coming out of the University of Washington, Chriss was considered a lottery pick largely based on potential. He is an excellent athlete who demonstrated he could knock down three-pointers as well, as he shot 35.0% from beyond the arc in college, per Sports Reference.
Unfortunately it never came together for Chriss as he was drafted into a tough situation in Phoenix. He never received consistent playing time at his second destination, the Houston Rockets, and was then dealt to the Cavs.
Chriss is still only 21 years old, and will only be going into season number four. His fourth-year option has already been declined, though, as it was by Houston back in October (per Spotrac) and at this point there’s not much of a point to re-signing him if you’re Cleveland Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman.
In 27 games with Cleveland this year, Chriss put up 5.7 points on 43.5% effective field goal shooting and 4.2 rebounds per game (per Basketball Reference), and was often erratic.
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Should the Cavs add another forward in the draft (which could potentially be someone such as Duke phenom Zion Williamson based on the team’s great lottery odds), there would already be quality depth in the front court.
Even with holes in the current roster, Chriss only saw the floor 14.6 minutes per night with the Cavs (per Basketball Reference). Chriss has previously been vocal about wanting consistent playing time (when he was on the Rockets in particular), but it’s hard to see that happening in Cleveland.
Additionally, Cleveland.com’s Chris Fedor essentially said in a recent set of Twitter mailbag responses that of the Cavs’ players slated to be unrestricted and/or restricted this summer, which will be Chriss, Nik Stauskas, Deng Adel and likely David Nwaba if he’s extended a qualifying offer (which seems likely), Nwaba has the “best chance to stick.”
Along with that, Fedor also noted how Cleveland has 11 players under contract for next season currently, and basically when you add in the two draft picks Cleveland has in the 2019 NBA Draft, that would make 14 players in total, if you theoretically add in Nwaba.
Cavs owner Dan Gilbert seems to be more than willing to dip into the luxury tax, for the record, and I would assume he would.
Aside from positional fit, Chriss has not shown a ton of the potential he was drafted on other than in a February 13th triple OT loss to the Brooklyn Nets.
Throughout his career, he’s taken 37.7% of his shots from beyond the arc and is a career 29.6% three-point shooter, and many of those attempts have been of the wide-open variety. It’s important to stretch the floor, but not at the expense of taking makeable shots.
Taking all this into account, the Cleveland Cavaliers should let Chriss walk this off-season.
His production should be easily replaceable via undrafted free agency. While he wouldn’t be expensive, Altman should be able to find higher-upside guys pretty easily.