Could Marquese Chriss’ Rise Benefit the Pelicans?

Published: June 13, 2016

If you didn’t watch a lot of college basketball last year, you probably don’t know who Marquese Chriss is. Actually, if you watched a ton of college basketball, you still might have missed the 6’9″ forward play for the Washington Huskies last year. Still, that hasn’t stopped Chriss from climbing up as high as number 3 overall to the Boston Celtics in some mock drafts.

So, what gives? Chriss wasn’t a big name recurit, and he didn’t exactly light up the PAC-12. To be fair, he was average in a decent college league, but he didn’t really show the flashes of a top pick. Well, it is the same old draft story we are used to hearing. It’s about potential over production, and Marquess Chriss is all raw, untapped potential. Chriss has only been playing basketball for about 5 years now, and it really shows. Despite his world class athleticism, he still hasn’t developed a feel for the game. Nevertheless, a 6’9″ guy who can jump out of the gym will always get some NBA teams interested. The question is, do you think he is the next Serge Ibaka or Anthony Randolph?

One of the NBA teams unlikely to be interested in Chriss’ services is the New Orleans Pelicans. Sure, the Pelicans could use an infusion of talent, but Chriss is no where near Anthony Davis’ or Jrue Holiday’s timeline. So, don’t expect the Pelicans to take Chriss at 6 if he’s available. However, the NBA draft, at its best, is a study in cause and effect. Some players’ stocks rise and others fall, which lead to a few overdrafts and missed opportunities each year. So, if Chriss does rise in the draft to number 3, how could that effect things for the Pelicans?

An Embarrassment of Riches at #6

To be sure, Brandon Ingram and Ben Simmons are the two top prospects in the 2016 draft. There’s probably a sharp drop off after that, but the second tier prospect list probably looks something like: Buddy Hield, Jamal Murray, Kris Dunn, and Dragan Bender (and maybe Jaylen Brown, if you’re a crazy person). Assuming Ingram and Simmons go numbers one and two overall, that means that 3 players from that list are likely to be off the board before the Pelicans pick. In that case, a lot of the Pelicans work would be done for them, right? Process of elimination would paint the Pelicans into a corner (unless they are crazy).

Now, let’s say that Chriss wedges himself between that first and second tier list, and he goes number 3 to the Celtics. That means that of the 4 players in our second tier list, only two will probably be off the board. This seems more interesting. We can easily imagine a scenario where the Pelicans are no longer forced to pick the last second tier guy, but they could have a decision between Jamal Murray and Kris Dunn, for example (and Brown if they are crazy).

Trade Opportunities

Again, if Chriss goes number 3 overall, the player most affected would probably be Dragan Bender, another potential-filled forward. The Suns and Timberwolves both seem unlikely to take a big, much less one that is such a project. That would mean that Dragan would still be on the board when the Pelicans are selecting. If the Pelicans wouldn’t be interested in Chriss, they probably won’t be interested in Bender. That doesn’t mean other teams wouldn’t be, though.

Bender, or any other second tier player, falling out of the top 5 will likely increase the Pelicans’ pick value to other teams. That means new, more interesting trade offers might start to roll in. Pelicans fans have been reasonably weary of trading another 1st round pick, but don’t make up your mind before anything happens. There could be plenty of teams interested in trading up if they see their guy fall. Something similar happened last year when Justiss Winslow fell to the 10th pick in the draft. As Winslow fell, several teams, including the Boston Celtics, made an effort to move up in the draft and take Winslow at 10. Of course, Miami ultimately held on to the pick, but that doesn’t mean the Pelicans would in a similar situation. In short, a player like Chriss disrupting the top of the draft could lead to new trade opportunities for the Pelicans and new drama for everyone.

Of course, Marquese Chriss hasn’t moved up in the draft yet, and, frankly, all the rumors about his rising stock could just be noise from his agent or a team hoping to manipulating other teams into a making a rash decision. That isn’t really the point, though. Regardless of whether Chriss moves up in the draft, what’s important to remember is that the draft is not static. We all spend time making lists and mock drafts, but that stuff can change in an instant with one new piece of information or an unexpected decision. So before you convince yourself that the Pelicans are taking Buddy Hield or trading back or trading for a veteran, remember that this is all fluid. And all it may take to change an entire franchise’s fortunes is a player like Chriss moving up.



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