The first warning came two months ago, when on an unseasonably warm* mid-October night, he broke out a thrilling buffet of preseason statistics: 17 points, six boards, two steals, four blocks and three treys.
Warning #2 came some 60 days later, when Marquese Chriss tore it up in an officially sanctioned regular season NBA contest: 14 points and 12 boards, with a three, a steal and a block in a season-high 31 minutes against the Knicks on Tuesday.
And the third warning was the most emphatic yet, with—
Okay, now you’re just getting greedy. There was no third warning.
But we now have more than enough information to take action. And with that in mind, here’s the synopsis: At age 19, Chriss is not anywhere close to consistent. What he is though, is a wildly exciting combo of stats waiting to happen if and when he puts things together (and by “things”, I mean “consistent playing time”). And the landscape is very much in his favor in that department: Per-36 minutes, he’s averaging 14.6 ppg, 7.0 rpg, 1.2 spg, 1.1 bpg and 1.2 3s; and per-26 games, the Suns have won eight.
So as the season goes on, his minutes only figure to rise. And along those lines, the No. 8 overall pick has now played 30-plus minutes in back-to-back games — his first two 30-minute games of the season. (The latter, on Thursday, produced 10 points, two boards, a steal, a block and two treys against the Spurs.)
I’m not going to go out and say that you absolutely have to add Chriss in 10-team leagues right now and wait it out, because I do think there are probably some frustrating days (and weeks) of inconsistency ahead.
At the same time though, those in slightly deeper leagues — and those with the patience to pick up Chriss and leave him be on the bench for a while — have a pretty good chance to roll around in a big pile of figurative money later in the season. After all, players who can pile up points, rebounds, steals, blocks and 3s — and do so with a bit of a nasty streak — don’t just pop up all that often.
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Also on my mind this week…
Jahlil Okafor is not fazed by a crowded frontcourt in Philly. We can talk all we want about things being crowded with Joel Embiid and a possibly soon-to-be healthy Nerlens Noel around (though I’ll believe that second one when I see it). The bottom line is that Okafor, regardless of competition, is ready to produce. Over his last six healthy games (interrupted, as we sometimes are, by a three-game absence due to gastroenteritis), Okafor has posted 15.2 ppg, 7.3 rpg and 1.3 bpg on 64.5 percent from the field. That kind of production can help most fantasy squads, and I think it’s pretty sustainable even in a hectic frontcourt, given that Okafor has accomplished that recent work in just 28 minutes per game.
Other Random Thoughts: I was very serious the other night when I said that one of Elfrid Payton’s free throw attempts hit his bangs as he released it. But all hair-related shot-deflection issues aside, Orlando’s backup PG is putting up some stout numbers of late. Last six games: 14.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg, 7.8 apg, 1.2 spg, 0.8 bpg and 1.2 3s on 50.7 percent from the field. … JaMychal Green is doing some intriguing things lately — including 8.4 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 2.0 apg, 1.1 spg and 0.5 bpg through his first eight games of December. However, he’s somehow also shooting an Andrew Harrison-esque 12-of-46 from the field (26.1 percent) in his last six games. … I’m still a believer in Devin Booker’s potential for the long term — and even for the near future later this season. Lately though, he’s doing a very sneaky job of sabotage in fantasy leagues. Through his firs seven games of December, Booker is posting 16.4 ppg, 3.6 apg and 1.4 3s. That’s all fine of course, but he’s also shooting 38.2 percent on 15.7 attempts per game. Add that together with low steals (0.7) and high turnovers this month (3.0), and you have the No. 266-ranked player in 9-category leagues so far in December. He’s still a 30-point game waiting to happen at any moment, but it does come with a significant cost. On the season, Booker has hit half or more of his shots in a game just four times.