The Dallas Mavericks may have struck gold with relatively new backup center Marquese Chriss.
He was brought in on a 10-day deal but earned a second 10-day deal after that. Now, he’s looking like a real candidate for a contract that would make him a Maverick through the entirety of the 2021-22 season.
Chriss does a lot of good things. He attacks the rim hard with or without the ball. He rebounds well. He’s uber-athletic. He has a knack for being in the right place at the right time. He works his tail off. He’s better than Willie Cauley-Stein. That checks every box I need for him to operate as the Mavs’ primary backup center for the rest of this season. The most exciting part, though, is it looks like Chriss already has great chemistry with Luka Doncic.
Sunday night against the Thunder was Luka’s first game with Chriss, and they immediately worked well together. Luka found Chriss in a variety of ways, whether it be popping to the three-point line after a screen, diving to the rim after a screen, or just flat-out rim-running in the open floor.
Check out this play:
This is a simple play, but one that doesn’t happen often. Luka could’ve easily taken the wide-open three, but that’s not necessarily his strong suit. Instead, he hits Chriss who’s rim-running for an easy dunk. It was a guaranteed two points as soon as Luka saw him running down the middle of the floor.
Another nice play from the Luka-Marquese combo came at the beginning of the fourth quarter.
That pick-and-pop was executed to perfection. Luka comes off the screen from Chriss playing with an abundance of patience, per usual. As his primary defender recovers onto him, he throws a perfect behind-the-back pass to Chriss who read the play nicely and is spotted up in a great spot. Chriss promptly knocked down the three.
My favorite Luka-Marquese play, though, was actually one that didn’t result in any points. Check it out:
This is just about as beautiful of a two-man game as you can find. Initially, it looks like a simple pick-and-pop. Luka comes off the screen and hits Chriss at the top of the key. But Chriss’s defender recovers nicely, so he doesn’t force the shot. Instead, he works back towards Luka and they immediately get into a perfect dribble-hand-off. After Chriss drops the ball off to Luka, he immediately dives to the rim as hard as he can and Luka lobs the ball up perfectly near the rim where only Chriss can get it. It was a tough finish and Chriss couldn’t convert, but it’s the type of play that inspires hope for what might be coming in the future. Plus, you could argue Chriss got undercut and should’ve gone to the line for two free throws.
After Sunday’s game, I asked head coach Jason Kidd about the chemistry between Luka and Marquese.
“I think they do have a good rhythm,” Kidd said. “They understand each other’s game, and I think it’s gonna help Luka as we go forward.”
Kidd is spot on. Chriss is the exact type of role guy off the bench that can help Luka going forward. He’s obviously not the secondary star the Mavs need if they have title hopes, but he’s a great option off the bench, and he’s someone the Mavs need to sign for the rest of the season.
Sunday night, Chriss had 15 points and seven boards in only 14 minutes of action. Isn’t that the type of bench production we’ve been clamoring for as Mavs fans? Dallas has the bench big man they need, all they have to do now is not screw it up.