The 2016 NBA draft was a great one for Australian basketball, we had two players selected in the top 10 and now Melbourne Australia is now officially the City that has produced the most overall number 1 draft picks in NBA history (Andrew Bogut, Kyrie Irving and Ben Simmons).
Ben Simmons, the most recent of these #1 picks was selected first for good reason. Before his very unfortunate season ending injury he was more than likely going to be an instant success in the NBA and will be producing highlight reels faster than people will be able to press record on their phone. Now with Thon Maker it is a different story, it is not clear how Thon will adjust to playing against NBA opposition due to coming straight from High school. Hell, it’s not even clear how old Thon really is! But Thon has the potential to be just as talented as Simmons but hasn’t been given the stage to showcase these talents. Now at Milwaukee we will get a glimpse into the curious case of Thon Maker and how this young man operates.
In the 2013 NBA draft the Milwaukee Bucks had the rights to the 15th pick and they decided to go with an 18 year old boy from Greece who was playing in the second division Greek league at the time. This was a wild selection that was viewed as a long term project to say the least, now upon me writing this article this same player. Giannis Antetokounmpo just signed a 4 year $100 million contract to stay in Milwaukee.
He has gone from an incredibly raw, overseas mystery pick to future All-star all by the time he is 22 years of age. Excitement is buzzing in the state of Wisconsin and when you see Giannis play it’s easy to see why. After the all-star break he averaged 18.7 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 7.3 apg, 1.5 stlpg, with this fresh in the franchises mind it’s easy to see why the Bucks were so adamant about drafting Thon Maker another wildly talented athletic gem shrouded in “What if’s?.
One thing that is clear with Thon is he that he plays with a high level of passion and intensity that can’t be taught. Apart from his 7 foot 3 height and never ending wingspan this is his greatest tool to success.
The Bucks have demonstrated their ability to nurture young, raw talent into world class competitors so this bodes well for Maker.
In summer league he showed off his shooting stroke and although successful shots were a bit difficult to come by (Missing 13 of 19 attempts) but when he makes them his form is promising. Nobody is expecting him to knock down 3’s at a Steph Curry like rate but Thon does show the ability to hit an open 3 if needed and that is crucial in today’s NBA. For this reason Thon is able to play as a Centre and also a Power forward being utilized as a Stretch 4, this is a position that the Bucks have been missing for the past few seasons. So much so that last year they finished dead last in 3 pointers attempted and 22nd in 3 pointers made. So there is a need for a player with Thon’s abilities and there are minutes available for Thon to play due to his versatility at both the 4 and the 5 spot on the roster.
He shoots with the ball held up high above his 7 foot frame, so defending this shot is near impossible as he will inevitably shoot over the top of defenders. So it comes down to a matter of consistency, and with the foundations already there Thon’s already starting to show a massive upside.
For his height Thon weighs a mere 100kg, so although he is has exceptional instincts for rebounding and can reach and jump higher than many opposing Centres (Makers 36.5′ maximum vertical leap is the highest ever recorded in the NBA Draft Combine) he is easily muscled off the ball.
He had two double-double outing in Summer League the most impressive being a game where he recorded 17 points, 17 rebounds and 1 block. Now this was only in Summer League but how many other rookies put up numbers similar to this during the tournament?
So on his day Thon can be electrifying and cover pretty much every inch of the court, however due to his 100kg frame there are times where things don’t go his way and he will get sloppy and frustrated. This was evident in the game where he received 10 personal fouls in 31 minutes of game time, this is all a part of the rookie process and performances like this will be ironed out. But considering the NBA’s limit of 6 personal fouls before being ejected this is something to be slightly concerned with, Maker’s intensity and desire to prove himself can get in the way sometimes but between that and a player who merely rest on their natural abilities I’d be taking the player who wears their heart on their sleeve like Thon does any day of the week. Besides, the rollercoaster ride that is a rookie season is supposed to have these ups and downs and considering the mystery that surrounded the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft the amount of upside already on display is enough to put the mind at ease.
So clearly Boomers fans, Bucks fans, fans of Aussie’s competing abroad, and anyone in between. We all have a lot to look forward to with Matthew Dellavedova’s move to Milwaukee and Thon Maker introduction into the elongated family of the Bucks. The combination of an exciting up and coming roster, a thirst for playoff experience and a Coaching system specifically set up to nurture talent means this is defiantly a team you’ll want to bookmark on NBA league pass. Australian Basketball is in for a treat these coming years. So watch out Tokyo 2020! And the NBA will also soon have to realise it is time to fear the deer!