The Milwaukee Bucks shocked the basketball world when they selected Thon Maker with the tenth overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft. Most believed that the Bucks would go for someone prepared to immediately heighten their level of play. Most also believed that Maker was a clear-cut second round pick. Instead, Milwaukee again swung for the fences (see, Giannis) with a young, lengthy, semi-mobile big oozing with the oh-so-special P word. Yep, I’m talking about potential, and Thon Maker has loads of it. Potential, however, does not accurately define Mr. Maker. Above all else, he is a man of mystery. And this mystery man infuses nothing other than good vibes into the Milwaukee Bucks organization.
Let’s start from the beginning. Can we finally proclaim that current GM John Hammond is a NBA draft wizard? Hammond often finds success in going against the grain, a drafting pattern he has normalized for the Bucks. The most obvious example is Giannis Antetokounmpo, soon-to-be All-Star and current NBA wrecking ball. Honestly, if Hammond’s only positive move during his Bucks tenure were drafting the Greek Freak, he would still be a Milwaukee legend. Other, less extreme, examples include Brandon Jennings, Tobias Harris, John Henson, and, of course, current rookie Malcolm Brogdon. None of these players are high profile stars, but they all provide value greater or equal to their draft stock.
Thus, the early first round selection of Thon Maker should have Bucks fans far and wide feeling giddy. He is 30 years old 19 years old (seriously though, get out of here with these age conspiracies theories… just take a peek at Maker’s baby face), 7’ 1”, and 220 lbs. In other words, this kid has the same build as everyone’s ideal NBA2K MyPlayer.
What really makes Maker seep potential, however, is his unique physique-skillset combo. Maker is the raw foundation of today’s NBA New Age center. Comparing him against every single NBA Draft Combine player over 6’ 11” that ever existed, he has the highest maximum vertical leap, 36.5’, and the highest standing vertical leap, 32’. Rebounding and blocking capabilities, check. But more important is the fact that Maker has a jump shot. He’s shooting 55.6% from the field (many of which are long twos and threes) and draining 50.0% of his three point attempts (he’s a mere 4 for 8, but damn, it’s exciting). Also, Maker does not have cinder block feet. Usually, large-framed players are caught stomping around, trying and failing to defend laterally, unable to do anything even relatively quickly. Maker already seems like an exception to this rule. Exhibit A:
Thon Maker is straight up unnatural, and Bucks fans everywhere are hyped. But again, most of the talk about Maker is on his potential. Let’s not ignore the greatness that is his current role.
Nah, I’m not going to argue that Maker is being used as any sort of role player like Brogdon, Telly, or Beasley. I’m not blind: he’s the Bucks’ garbage man, picking up garbage minutes in garbage time. He currently has no influence on his team’s record. When Thon Maker is on the court, it’s Thon’s game, not the Bucks’.
Maybe that’s why the Thon Maker Experience has been so great. When the Bucks are up big late in the fourth, Maker is the focal point of the surging “WE WON” excitement. In the eyes of the fans, every move he performs is highlight reel worthy; every shot he swishes is a game winner. In this scenario, Maker is like a bottle of champagne because he is the celebration to the Bucks’ success. What’s not to enjoy about a 7’ 1” 19-year-old mixing flowery footwork with in-rhythm threes during the high of a win?
Then, there’s the other side of the coin. When the Bucks are down big late in the fourth, Maker is the necessary distraction from the team’s awful cycle of disappointing mediocrity. Here, late in the games with a wide margin between the two teams’ scores, the remaining Bucks fans (both in person and watching from afar) need something to cheer for. Thon Maker is always, always the answer. He’s 19 years old and not playing important minutes, so as long as he’s playing hard (which he always seems to be doing), Bucks fans will be ecstatic too see him on the court.
In a way, Thon Maker is in a luxurious position. He does not endure the scrutiny that the role players receive because, unlike the role players, his performance means nothing to the team’s success. Until it does, fans will continue to enjoy him regardless of the circumstances.
Sick of the Bucks hovering around an even record? Thon Maker. Tired of Jason Kidd’s antics? Thon Maker. Furious because Giannis was one block shy of a 5×5 stat line? Thon Maker. Thon Maker is the answer to all your questions, and so, so very much more.