Who To Own Marquese Chriss or Dragan Bender
By Rocco Minsk The Phoenix Suns’ draft class of 2016 seemed very promising at the outset. Many thought that the Suns pulled off a master coup selecting both Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss in the first-round that year and both players immediately became dynasty league darlings with lofty projections of multi-category contributions.
Fast forward a year and both players seem adrift in their sophomore seasons in the NBA. Chriss in particular was projected to take a major league forward this season, with an ADP towards the close of the 8th round. Chriss has failed to live up to those expectations, averaging 6.6 PPG and 4.6 RPG in slightly over 20 MPG this season. His numbers are further skewed by the fact that he had 19 points in one game, when he actually received meaningful playing time. Clearly it has been a disappointing season for Chriss so far. His minutes have failed to increase since the Suns fired coach Earl Watson, instead heading southward.
Bender has also been a source of frustration for fantasy owners. He suffered through an injury plagued rookie season that had a couple of glimpses of the player that he could be before lapsing into the young untested rookie that he was. This season, Bender’s minutes have begun to trend upwards, but he still has a long way to go towards realizing the potential that inspired the Suns to draft him 4th overall, averaging 5.2 PPG and 4.6 RPG.
The purpose of this article is to recommend which one of these players to own if you had to choose between them, recognizing that ownership of these players is not necessarily a mutually exclusive proposition. Bender and Chriss seldom appear on court together and it seems as if the two players, drafted in the same draft, are inextricably locked in a zero sum game. Recently, Bender has been getting the upper hand of the two as his minutes have ticked up under interim coach Jay Triano.
The concern about Bender and his long-term success in the league is readily apparent; it is his shooting. While Bender is a very raw player with lots of potential, his current baseline is extremely low, shooting 34% on the season. This means he has a long way up to go to get to a point where he can be a consistent contributor. Unfortunately with Bender, he came into the league as a project with little track record to point to that could should he has the potential to be a good shooter. In limited minutes as a 17-year old with Maccabi Tel Aviv, Bender shot 33%. Bender is never going to be a high percentage shooter, given that the lion’s share of his attempts come from the three-point range, but at this point, long-term concerns about his shooting have to be surfacing.
Meanwhile, Chriss has contributed when given extended minutes. After the All-star break, Chriss averaged nearly 27 minutes per game and the production was solid; 12.7 PPG and 5.9 RPG with meaningful blocks and steals thrown in for good measure. The Suns play better when Chriss is on the floor, with a minus of 2.5 pts as opposed to a minus of 7.8 pts when Chriss is off the floor. In addition, the two players don’t compare on offensive efficiency, with Chriss checking in at 97.5 to Bender’s 87.4. The advanced metrics point to Chriss being a bigger force on the offensive side of the ball with Bender currently looking like a one-dimensional player and not a very good one at that.
Bender may have long-term potential, but he has a long way to go to reach the potential, with too much uncertainty given his very low current baseline. We have already seen what Chriss can do and once he earns his way onto the floor more, he should be a contributing fantasy option, even if he is not the top offensive option. Our verdict is to own Chriss over Bender, notwithstanding the fact that Bender is playing more now.