For a moment, it appeared Marquese Chriss, the former Pleasant Grove High School star, would be calling Golden 1 Center his home this season. But after being traded from the Kings to the Phoenix Suns on draft day in June, he’d have to wait about seven months to make his homecoming as a pro.
On Friday, Chriss is projected to start against the Kings at Golden 1 Center. And while the Suns (15-34, five-game losing streak) have been hidden behind a cloud at the bottom of the Western Conference, Chriss has flared some hot performances. On Thursday, he was named the Western Conference Rookie of the Month for January.
The 6-foot-10 forward took home the honor having ranked fourth among rookies in scoring (8.3 points), third in field-goal percentage (45.9), first in steals (1.36) and fifth in rebounding (3.6) for the month. Chriss scored a career-high 20 points in a loss to the Memphis Grizzlies on Monday – plus this ridiculous windmill dunk.
He’s only the fourth rookie in Suns history to receive the honor and the first since Amare Stoudamire in 2003, according to SB Nation blog Bright Side of the Sun, which wrote that it came as a surprise to many fans who have seen Chriss, 19, as inconsistent.
“In each of these games, you get to see the best of the rookie teenager in action. He can dunk, he can make threes and he can even show off a mid-range game when he gets the chance. But you only see snippets of greatness because the dude is just a baby,” wrote Dave King, who noted foul trouble or poor play contributed to his playing 18 minutes or less in half of his starts that month.
The Kings drafted Chriss No. 8 overall before trading his rights to the Suns in exchange for their Nos. 13 and 28 picks, which they used on George Papagiannis and Skal Labissiere, and the rights to another.
On Friday afternoon, Suns reserve forward Alan Williams poked some fun at Chriss on Twitter, saying he was with royalty in the capital.
Chriss appears to have quickly settled in to his new digs in Phoenix, according to an article early this season by The Bee’s Jason Jones.
“(Chriss’) progression has really been amazing for our group in a positive way,” Suns coach Earl Watson told Jones after Chriss’ first six games. “He has the natural ability physically to impact the game playing above the rim, hitting 3s, running the floor, dunking, making shots.”
Chriss was selected by the NBA’s assistant coaches to play in the Rising Stars Challenge during All-Star Weekend on Feb. 17.
He is averaging 7.4 points and 3.4 rebounds while shooting 42.6 percent in 49 games this season, including 42 starts.
Chriss made his NBA debut against the Kings in the season opener on Oct. 26 at Talking Stick Resort Arena. He had seven points on 3-for-7 shooting, four rebounds, two assists and a block in 22 minutes, 12 seconds off the bench. The Kings won 113-95.