Thon Maker is entering the NBA Draft as the first High Schooler since Amir Johnson to enter the draft. Thon spent an extra season with Orangeville District Secondary School instead of playing college basketball, so in my opinion the jump from High School storyline is being over hyped with Thon, but it’s a different route players should now consider as their route to the NBA.
Thon is 7’1” with a 7’3” wingspan center who was born in Sudan during the Sudanese Civil War. He got out of that mess when he was five, he was accepted by Australia as a refugee. Thon was discovered as a top notch basketball prospect before High School, moving to North America where he has spent time playing high school ball in the United States and Canada.
Thon Maker became Giannis Antetekounmpo before anyone knew who Giannis was when his highlight reel became quite the watch on youtube. Crossing guys up, hitting three, and highlight reel dunks gave him a superstar reputation that wasn’t realistic given his limitations. He can still do all those things, but it’s hard to imagine it’d work out of for him if he attempted these things consistently. Thon still has a lot of potential entering the NBA, but his overall feel for the game just isn’t what the average basketball fan had hoped he’d be by the time he was entering the NBA. If Thon can pick and choose better when to use his unique skill set he would become a very interesting player in the NBA. The 3 and D center is becoming a new toy in the NBA, Thon has a good chance at being on the new flashy toys in the modern NBA, maybe not a modern Kevin Garnett, but there is talent here.
-Motor: Thon might be thin playing at 215 pounds, but he plays with some gusto on the defensive end. He’ll get into his match-up to try to make up for the weight differential. Thon rarely stops moving on the floor, and he makes the effort to transition to the other end of the floor.
-Shooting: He has shown the ability to stretch the floor, I’m not sure he has NBA three point range yet, but he’ll enter the league able to hit a midrange shot. He only shot a little over thirty percent from three in high school last year, and his shot doesn’t look completely smooth, but he should develop into a serviceable shooter in the NBA.
-Speed: Thon won’t be the fastest post player in the NBA, but he shows the ability to get up and down the floor. He doesn’t look as coordinated as Skal does running up and down the floor, but the two share a similar ability to outrun the average center in the league.
-Handle: Maybe the most intriguing aspect of his potential is the dream of Thon brining the ball up the floor after he fought for the rebound. Thon has a pretty solid cross over for a center, and still reminds me of Giannis pushing the ball up the floor some. He doesn’t have nearly the same feel as Giannis, but the two look similar pushing the ball up the floor. Thon plays the game but doesn’t have Giannis’ sole.
-Defensive Potential: Thon will always have a place in the league if he can put some of his competitive energy in keeping the opponent from getting easy looks at the rim. He had a 32 inch no step vert at the NBA combine, mixing that with the Roy Hibbert arms straight up shot contest, could lead Thon to be a very talented rim protector.
-Feel: Thon has a lot of strengths to his game, but due to his lack of feel for the game doesn’t get everything out of his skill set. Sure he can shoot, but not consistently. He can push the ball up the floor, but his decision with the pass may not be sound. He fights hard on defense, but fails to box out his match up. To truly meet his potential, he’ll need to make greater friends with the game of basketball.
-Strength: He exerts too much energy just trying to play on even ground with his match up. Most posts in the league will be able to back him down in the post early on his career. The competitiveness is great, but his body will eventually break down under the NBA rigors.
-Post Moves: The ability to score in the post is still an important aspect in today’s NBA. Karl Anthony-Towns has a great feel in the post, as does fellow youngin Kristaps Porzingis. Being able to stretch the floor is great, but teams can scout and make it easier on themselves if he can’t play down low. Right now, all his defender has to do is contest his shot with their arms straight up because Maker doesn’t have the ability to make fool you out of position with a post move.
Rookie Year for Milwaukee:
If the Bucks take the risk on Maker Thursday night, we will be receiving a versatile player that could give us minutes off the bench. Our bench unit would appreciate having a competitive player that has the ability to change the feel of the game with a highlight reel play. I don’t think he has the consistency to be relied on to do much more than compete his rookie year, but that could be said for most center prospects in the 2016 draft.
I would be hoping to see him making as many hustle plays as possible to make me comfortable with the pick. He has the natural physical gifts to be a solid player so long as he hustles, making him less of a boom or bust pick as we may think when he’s selected on Thursday. His rookie season will be a battle to show that he belongs on this level, with his competitive fire, I think he’ll prove to belong, but that’s his rookie journey.
Future for Milwaukee:
He might struggle his rookie season, but give him a couple years playing with NBA competition and he could come into his own as a player. Imagine this Buck’s team with Giannis and Thon both being able to rebound and fly up the floor as quick as possible looking to make a big play? Two 7 footers with a skill set would be incredibly hard to deal with for the average NBA team. We would have versatility that no other NBA team has really seen before, every player on the floor would be able to run the team through the offense. Thon should also improve his range to at least the short corner three giving us the three point threat from the center position that’s new to the league.
On defense, he has the potential to be the last line of defense guy that we need for a playoff run provided he bulks up. Playing at anything less than 230 pounds seems to be doomed from the start. His competitive fire just won’t hold up over the course of an 82 game season. With Jabari playing the four, we need a consistent threat to block shots on the defensive end. Thon has the tools to become that kind of player, but without improving his feel for the game, may never improve his instincts enough to give us a top 15 defense in the league.