Draft Preview: Thon Maker.
All the same disclaimers from the other draft preview posts apply here.
Who Is Thon Maker?
(allegedly) Born in 1997 in what is today South Sudan, Maker was smuggled out of the country at the age of 5 to escape the civil war, and was accepted into Australia (with some of his family) as a refugee. He lived in Perth and was discovered by a guy who helps poor/disadvantaged kids get opportunities when he was 14 as being super tall and athletic. He moved to the US for High School and went to a couple different Schools, and then enrolled at a "Athlete Institute" in Ontario. He is straight from high school but he is 19.
Thon Maker is a solid 7 feet tall and recorded the highest no step vertical jump of anyone 6'10 or taller in combine history. Those are both things you can't teach, and being very tall and jumping very high generally help make you a good basketball player.
In theory he should be able to shoot it a little bit, in high school he played almost exclusively on the perimeter, at times even being listed as a guard. He would handle the ball and do all sorts of guard stuff. Although the ball handling is unlikely to be much use to him in the NBA (it is very sloppy) the fact that he shoots at all is a pretty good sign for him in the future.
The best thing about Maker is probably his work ethic and attitude. At every stop and every camp that he has made on his way to the NBA draft, even the ones where he disappointed at, every single person who saw him said that he works his tail off and plays very hard. Being a freak athlete and playing like a maniac is a very good combination, regardless of whether any of his skills as a shooter/ball handler end up becoming anything or not.
This dude is raw. To an almost comical point. His highlights feature awesome step back 3s, but that is actually just the result of him trying like 5 or 6 of them and failing miserably all but once. He is super skinny as well, currently listed as just 216 pounds, which is rail thin for a 7 footer. Even in high school he had trouble fighting through contact (even if he wasn't afraid of it) and getting rebounding and post up position, as well as fending off strong players when he played defense. Obviously he is very young, but he has (supposedly) not gained almost any weight the past couple of years, which is not a great sign for him to add lots more in the future. He also has an issue of having small hands, causing him to struggle to corral rebounds as well as dribbling the ball.
The thing that worries me most is his skills. His upside is supposed to be a highly skilled playmaking 4 that is also a freak athlete, and the issue is that he is not highly skilled right now. Like not even kind of skilled. He seriously looks like the dude that comes to play pickup and just chucks 3s and misses horribly every single time but once or twice. Basically everything about the way he played in high school will be a total no-go in the NBA. Essentially, I see a guy who looks good in high school because he is 7 feet tall and athletic, which is to say that he is in fact 7 feet tall and athletic. In the NBA his height will not mean all that much for him, and he is so skinny that he would likely be abused by damn near every opposing big in the NBA, even with the league going smaller. Essentially, I am afraid that he is just not actually good at basketball, he doesn't seem to have good touch whether shooting, passing, or rebounding. And I don't know if he is enough of an athletic specimen to be any good if he has no skills.
Maker spends a year in the D-League getting bigger and adjusting to playing the 4, his work ethic pays off and he actually can really shoot it and is a spark plug with his high effort play. He is on the Pistons his 2nd season and is a really nice combination of athleticism and shooting that comes off the bench and is the defensive option at the 4 the Pistons could use, he basically becomes a beastly player.
He is not actually good at basketball, and can't really add any real strength. He loiters in the D-League for a few years chucking bad 3s and trying to be Steph Curry while getting dominated any time he goes into the paint, and after a few years the Pistons just cut him and he never makes it in the league.
I don't know man, there is such a wide variety of outcomes with Maker. If his skills don't really come around but he adds some weight, he could become a energy big off the bench almost like Tristan Thompson for the Cavs a couple years ago. But he could also become a fairly unprecedented combination of size, athleticism, and shooting that the league hasn't really seen unless Porzingis reaches full potential. So I don't really know lol.
I'm leaning towards a definite no. From what I have seen of him, I don't know that he is actually any good as a basketball player, and he does not have a high basketball IQ. Like when I talked about Sabonis there is the saying that "For some guys the ball just goes in." While that is not totally true, but some guys have good touch, and Maker is like the opposite of that from what I have seen. He regularly blows layups and putback attempts unless he is able to dunk it, and he will need to put on a lot of weight before he will be able to dunk anything in the NBA. The only thing that I like about him is that everyone who has worked with him says that he plays very hard and has a desire to work on his game. And I am always going to have space for good athletes who play like maniacs. (Between Rodman and Big Ben the Pistons know a thing or two about how useful athletes who play super hard can be.) But even that potential I doubt, he needs to get so much stronger, and his hands are kind of worrying because he has trouble catching the ball, and catching the ball is important for rebounding and dunking, the two primary things hard playing athletes do. Obviously he could end up being awesome and me looking foolish, but that's just kind of what I see.
HOWEVA, Maker has been mocked to a huge variety of places, and IF he were to fall all the way to the Pistons in the 2nd round, then I'd be fine taking a shot on him.
What do you think? Should the Pistons draft Thon Maker? Let me know! We all get smarter!