Understanding the Thon Maker Expereince

One of the biggest surprises from Thursday’s draft was the Milwaukee Bucks picking mystery big Thon Maker with the 10th pick in the draft. Maker has been under a lot of scrutiny latley based on allegations about his actual age, and his lack of game experience to actually examine. In order to get a more clear picture of what he could bring to the Bucks, I watched some of his games. Here’s some things that stuck out to me.

Thon Maker is a very raw prospect. 

It jumps out to you just by the way he moves around the basketball court. Maker plays like a guard trapped in a big man’s body. He gives out weak screens, and consistently opts to float around on the perimeter rather than diving hard to the paint. A reason for that might be because he struggles with establishing position in the post, wether it’s to catch an entry pass or to secure a rebound.

The above clip shows the type of uphill battle that Maker will face. Maker was unable to establish deep postion on the smaller Jaylen Brown. This lead to him being so far out of the paint that even when he gets by Brown, he’s in such a bad spot on the baseline that he had to put up an awkward shot. Brown is the type of defender that teams will constantly throw at Maker until he proves that he can take advantage of mis-matches. At the draft combine Maker weighed in at only 216ibs despite being listed at 225ibs in the Biosteel All-Canadian game. He’ll need to gain weight quickly if he has any chance of competing with NBA bigs.

Maker has handles, but they’re very limited.

Chances are that if you’ve watched a Maker YouTube highlight, you’ve seen this play before:

However, what you probably didn’t see was the play immediatley after it.

Yes, in certain circumstances Maker can dribble the basketball. At his size, that can be a strength when playing against slower bigs. The problem is that it’s not a consistent enough weapon to go to, and Maker looks for these types of iso plays instead of establishing himself in the paint to get more efficient oppourtuities. In the NBA, chances are he won’t ever get situations where a coach is comfotable with him going one on one at the top of the key against opponents. He’ll need to become a strong face-up scorer which starts with gaining enough muscle that allows him to be a threat to finish at the rim.

Defense may be his ticket to play time

Even with minimal game experience, Maker has shown an ability to move his feet well on the perimter. This should bode well for today’s pick and roll heavy style. Though Maker can get bullied by bigger guys, and has a tendency to ball-watch, his ability to switch on to guards could get him on the floor early.

A possible issue is that despite his elite 9’2.5 standing reach, he’s more of a weakside shot-blocker than a traditional protect the paint big. At times he didn’t look like he had the quick twitch instincts that really set the best shot-blockers apart.

Another thing to watch is he didn’t seem to have a high motor from what I saw, and he looked like a player that’s performance will dictate how much energy he’ll play with.

What’s the outlook for Maker?

First, he’ll need to get stronger, which he’s reportedly been working on already. Becoming a big that can exploit mismatches is the key to unlocking his potential. He’ll also need to learn how to pass from the post, and finish at the rim against bigger defenders. If he can at least do this, along with understanding defensive schemes, then he’ll be a solid rotation big. However, all of this will require a lot of patience. Learning how to actually do certain basketball skills at the higheset level of basketball will take years to develop. Even with reports of his high character and work ethic, Maker still has a long way to go before he can be an everyday contributor on an NBA roster. We didn’t even get in to his inconsistent 3pt shooting, and shaky mechanics that may not allow him to regulary get his shot off. Maker is by no chance a sure shot to stick in this league, and may have the highest bust potential in the draft. The allure of a 7ft big that moves like a wing is strong, but the risk here could prove to be a missed opportunity for a rebuilding Bucks team.

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