Editor's note: Grant Liffmann (@grantliffmann) is the co-host of Warriors Outsiders, which airs on NBC Sports Bay Area 60 minutes after every game. Each week, Grant will drop his Outsider Observation on the state of the Dubs.
Following an ugly 111-98 loss to the Sacramento Kings on Monday night, the Warriors made a surprising move by waiving Marquese Chriss out of his non-guaranteed contract, reportedly in order to add two-way player Damion Lee to the full-time roster.
For weeks it has been predicted, by myself included, that Chriss would remain with the team past the guarantee-deadline and get a chance to show his full potential for the complete season. So when the news broke that he was the casualty of the roster crunch, it was a bit of a shock. It's no secret I believed that Lee deserved a guaranteed roster spot on the Warriors, or any NBA team for that matter, dating back to an article I had written last summer regarding the matter.
The unfortunate part of the situation the Warriors put themselves in by not simply giving him a guaranteed contract before the season is that they now will lose out on Chriss, a transaction that will take some time to fully judge.
Before the preseason began, Chriss signing with the Warriors on a non-guaranteed training camp invite was somewhat of an afterthought to the big picture. The team was hardcapped and in desperate need of wings, so Chriss did not fit in to their immediate needs.
Though he is only 22 years old, many had labeled Chriss as a "bust" and questioned his maturity coming into the season. But after impressing during training camp, and forcing his way on to the roster following multiple injuries to the front court, he dispelled past labels and made them misconceptions.
The young big man showed off his immense potential while being a hard-working, positive, funny and passionate teammate.
On the court, he changed his style of play to become an in-the-paint big, instead of an outside shooting stretch four. Chriss became a solid shot blocker on defense, and was unafraid to try and ferociously dunk, hoping to posterize his opponent on the other end. His passing ability as a center was a revelation as well, consistently finding open shooters and also impressing with the dribble handoff.
Chriss averaged 7.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 1.9 assists and .9 blocks in just under 18 minutes per game for the Warriors. If he were a rookie, the organization would be thrilled about his development and future. And yet, despite being so young and bristling with potential, Chriss now is available for any team to claim.
Could the Warriors have traded Alec Burks, Glenn Robinson III or others in order to free up a spot? Sure, but only if the deal was right. And obviously the front office was unable to find the right trade partner to make it work at this time.
Adding Lee to the roster was a priority for the Warriors, and he made himself that by forcing the issue, including an 11-game stretch from Dec. 3, 2019 through Jan. 4, 2020 where he averaged 15.4 points, 7.1 rebounds and 2.7 assists per game while shooting 45.3 percent overall from the field, 44.2 percent from 3-point range and 92.5 percent from the free throw line.
When healthy, Lee has been one of the better players on the Warriors this season. A roster spot is well deserved.
But losing Chriss could hurt in the long run. Not often are organizations in possession of a young big with immense promise on a minimum deal. The Warriors are in a unique situation in which they are a bottom-dwelling team, that could be in line for the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft, while realistically expecting to compete for a title as soon as next season.
Once they are reloaded and healthy next season, the Warriors will have no time to wait to develop young players. But watching Chriss play this season and seeing his development from the start of the season until now, it seems as if he could have been ready to contribute as a role player on a good team, sooner than later.
Time will tell if Chriss pans out and fulfills his potential, but in a lost season destined simply for the use of young player development, the Warriors might have just waived a keeper.