High School Thon
Despite his 97 prospect rating out of high school, which would have put him at number one in the 2016 high school class if he was from the states, coming out of high school and straight to the league he was described as a very raw talent and not quite ready for the NBA. Teams passed on him because they thought he could have used that year in college to develop more. Still, the big man at the helm of the Bucks, John Hammond, picked Thon Maker with the 10th pick. Right away, teammates and coaches commended him on his work ethic and his impeccable basketball IQ. Those are the intangibles that can not be taught.
Garbage Time Thon
The first 55 games of the Bucks season has seen Thon Maker in just 30 of them and only playing about 8 minutes in each. This has been growing recently now that he is in and out of that starting lineup, but he started as a garbage time only player. In fact, early in the season the BMOHBC would come to their feet with giant smiles and applause when Thon checked in. It was almost a joke that he was playing, that’s how entertaining it was to people. Bucks players only trying to let him score in the last two minutes of blowout wins where he was good for a three every time. Or the one time he crossed up Birdman and sent him to the ground and hit the jump shot in his grill. That was a moment that made me really excited about this kid. A 19 year old 7 footer should not be able to do that, I don’t care who it was. He broke a grown man’s ankles and hit a jumper, but you could not help but see a potentially bright future where this is a regular occurence.
Starting Lineup Thon
Some fans would describe this as a dumpster fire of a season for the Bucks. Khris Middleton’s injury setting the tone, the sub-par record despite having a superstar in Giannis Antetokounmpo and Jabari’s near breakout season, and then Jabari Parker re-tearing his left ACL. The season has played with my emotions as a Bucks fan as I am sure it’s done to most fans as well. Other than the superstardom of Giannis, my favorite part has been the growth of Thon Maker from garbage time player into a starter. No he is not the best Center on our roster, but the fact that Kidd is letting him get this experience is huge. He has the potential to be a very good player in a few years. Heck, Jabari even said, “ Quote me on this right now, he will be the best 7-footer in the league.” and went on to say that he is 2-0 when trying to predict player’s futures. Anyways Thon in his first 30 games is shooting a steady 50% from three point land, which is on 16-32 attempts. What is even more encouraging is that in the games he plays over 10 minutes, mostly being starts, he is still shooting 50% from deep. Those are not just garbage time threes that he gets easily, he works in the system and is a dangerous pick-pop guy. When he adds the mass that is desired, he will be a force in the pick and roll as well. His numbers per 36 minute numbers are eye-popping as well. 17.5 points per game, 1.7 blocks, and 8.3 rebounds. I hate to compare him and Giannis in their rookie year because they were in different situations, but I am going to do it anyway. Giannis was at 10 points per 36 minutes, with 6.4 rebounds. The only reason I compare the two is because they were the same age as rookies, and also described as being very raw coming into the league.
Before, I mentioned what Jabari said about Thon Maker and how he is going to be the best 7 footer in the league. Obviously that is best case scenario for the Bucks. It is possible though, there is not anyone at 7’1” who can shoot it like he can or handle it like he can, besides Kristaps Porzingis at 7’3”, but at the same time, the defensive potential is all there. He blocks a good amount of shots for the limited minutes he gets and he can run the floor with anyone. He seems to be in the right spot a lot of the time and even though he is much weaker than other big men, he is still able to make it tough at times for other Centers to score. The biggest key to becoming the premier big man that many see him being is putting on a desired amount of weight. I’m no dietitian nor some sort of physical specimen myself, but I imagine he will need to put on at least 40 pounds in order to become the presence on the glass he needs to be, and a bully off the block. Just to put it into perspective, Thon is currently 216 pounds at 7’1”. Hassan Whiteside is 265 pounds at 7’. There is hope though, Whiteside came into the league at 225. To sum up Thon’s future, if he puts on the mass, theres reason to believe he will be a top 10 big man in this league.
As horrible as the Jabari injury was to the Bucks and the franchise, and it was a step back for sure. However, the fact that it can now make the Bucks look farther down the road and continue try to own the future, is huge for Thon’s development. There will not be any rush on his progress to becoming the big minute starting Center that he can be a few years from now. In four years, you will see two 7-footers running the floor for the Bucks, a duo like none other. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Thon Maker, the all-star and the future all-star. There is hope in Milwaukee.