Review of the season
Marquese Chriss joined the Dallas Mavericks as a substitute player during the Covid-19 outbreak in December. The Mavericks, and almost every NBA team, were desperate for players. Chriss was available, and almost immediately his energetic playing won over the fans.
In his first 13 games with Dallas, Chriss averaged 6.5 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. But once the Mavericks regulars returned, Chriss’ minutes dwindled. Despite a rotation that required great depth of man, Chriss just couldn’t carve out a role for himself. He got lost in defense too many times and he wasn’t brought up to be an offensive threat. Chriss finished the season averaging 4.5 points, 3 rebounds, and 0.5 assists per game. He only appeared in 34 matches.
Chriss was brought in as just a body, and in December he provided more than that. But as the season progressed, despite becoming more familiar with the Mavericks’ plans, he was unable to take a spot in the rotation. A former lottery pick, Chriss was a risk worth taking, and while it hasn’t worked out this season, it’s a strategy worth pursuing. Taking a flyer about talented players who have failed in previous shutdowns is always a good decision.
Chriss’ best performance of the year came against the Orlando Magic in the last game of January. On the road in Orlando, Chriss was active and energetic, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds, including three on the offensive glass. He also recorded two blocks. The Mavericks ended up losing the game, but Chriss gave them good minutes.
Chriss signed a two-year, $3.15 million deal with the Mavericks last season after proving himself on a ten-day deal. He only has one year left on the deal and it nets him $2.2 million. If the Mavericks were to include a salary to facilitate a trade, Chriss would be an easy contract to add to any deal. (Editor’s note: I didn’t know he was in the team next season)
Unless Chriss makes some sort of developmental leap in the offseason, he’ll be returning to Dallas as an emergency big man. He won’t play unless the Mavericks are plagued with injuries again. Chriss just hasn’t shown the talent that makes him playable when Dallas is completely healthy. If he develops a reliable 3-point shot, for example, he might be able to grab some meaningful minutes. Until then, however, he will maintain the end of the bench until the end of his contract or until he is traded.
Chriss was among the substitutes who performed well and kept the team afloat in December. He deserves credit for that. But his failure to earn minutes late in the season and in the playoffs when the Mavericks needed a few more guys to bolster the rotation is disappointing. It’s also a reminder of why it was available in the market to begin with. Maybe with a full offseason to practice, Chriss will come back with some aspects of his game improved.