(Photo: Courtesy of Sportingnews.com)
Players rarely come into the NBA Draft with both the combination of hype and mystery but that is exactly what the Sudan born Thon Maker brings to this year’s crop of NBA prospects.
Thon Maker is making the jump to the NBA straight out of prep school and in doing so he will be one of the most difficult prospects to gauge this year due to his lack of experience competing against college or international level talent on a consistent basis. To get a good understanding of Maker’s game and potential we researched his time in high school, basketball camps, pre-draft workouts and the NBA draft combine.
2016 NBA Draft Prospect Evaluation:
Thon Maker (19 years and 3 months old, Forward/Center, Athlete Institute Basketball Academy via Juba, Central Equatoria [South Sudan])
Video highlights (Courtesy of Mars Reel on Youtube):
Very impressive physical tools. Maker’s height was measured at 7 feet, 0.75 inches with shoes and a 7 foot, 3 inch wingspan at the NBA Draft Combine. Maker measured the 3rd longest standing reach at the combine, registering a remarkable 9 feet and 2.5 inches.
The obvious concern at this point is Maker’s very thin frame and whether he has the ability to pack on more weight. Maker weighed in at 216 pounds at the NBA Draft Combine which is far too light to bang down low at the power forward or center position in the NBA.
A not so obvious concern but one that NBA scouts will take into consideration is his relatively small hands for a guy his size. Maker hands measured 8.75 inches (length) by 9.50 inches (width). Being an active big man that will be involved in many pick and rolls, having soft, secure mitts is vital as a roll man and with Maker possessing small hands being effective in this area could be a challenge.
Off the charts athlete. What stands out immediately when watching Maker move is his fluidity for a player his size. Maker is incredibly nimble and coordinated for a 7 footer, seamlessly changing direction while continuing his dribble and can even pull up for a jump shot with the ease of 6’6 guard.
Maker has good explosion for a player his size but is not necessarily a quick leaper. Maker’s explosion to the basket is most notably when he has a clear lane to the basket but when in traffic he does struggle to gather himself and get off his feet.
Maker measured a 36 and a half inch max vertical leap (takes two steps before leap) which is great for guy measuring a legit 7 feet tall. For comparative purposes, DeAndre Jordan was measured with a 30.5 max vertical leap in 2008. The difference in Jordan and Maker in terms of explosion is that Maker takes a bit more time to gather himself and take off when in traffic; however, this could be directly related to his lack of strength and once he packs on some muscle in both those his legs and upper body you’ll begin to see improvement in this area.
Low Post Offense:
Very limited but promising. Lack of strength and girth prevent Maker from getting good low post position consistently which will be exponentially harder playing in the NBA. His small and unstable hands also provide issues with him catching entry passes when he does establish position. Has the potential to developing a back to the basket game with his length and athleticism to shoot over most defenders. He has shown a mini hook shot that he attempts with either hand. Add his nice shooting stroke he has the potential to develop an effective turn around jumper that he can utilize in the low to mid post; however, he needs to gain quite a bit of strength to be able to get good position on the post to be effective and that is still years away.
Maker’s ball handling and very sound jump shot could lead to having a very effective face up game similar to that of a Kevin Garnet where he can pull up or drive to the basket when defenders will bite due to having to honor his shot.
Outside Shooting Ability:
Good and potential to be much better. We already mentioned that Maker has a sound jump shot. While he doesn’t have the quickest release or a perfect and consistent mechanics he is still leaps and bounds better than most 7-footers and can do what most cant which is get his shot up off the dribble.
Maker shot a decent 29 percent on 52 for 182 from the 3 point line during his 53 games at Carlisle High School in Martinsville, Virginia. Maker showed his shooting potential more so from the free throw line where he shot 76 percent in his 2 years playing his high school ball in the United States.
It is too hard to tell at this point how far Maker can take his shooting range but everything is on the table based on his set of skills and physical tools. Maker could develop into a be a 3-point marksman from the 4 position that is hard to defend due to his length, similar to that of a Robert Horry. If Maker cannot gain quite the 3-point range he has already shown that his has a good enough stroke to knock down mid-range shots based on his success from the free throw line.
How is he going to score in the NBA:
Potential to be dynamic. Maker’s combination of physical tools and skills mean any and all methods of scoring are within his grasp. He has the ball handling ability and quickness to blow by defenders and get to the rim or pull up for jump shots either coming off screens or off the dribble. Also has a nice looking stroke and length to shoot over most defenders from anywhere on the floor. Could develop 3-point range as he has already shown the propensity to take and make the deep shot at a decent clip. Because Maker has a great motor he can easily become a player that gets easy baskets off put backs, slashes to the basket by cutting hard off the ball in half court sets and leaking out on breaks.
Low Post Defense/rim protection:
Good potential. Great length, quickness and a good vertical leap points positively to Maker developing into a very good rim protector and especially as a weak side defender. Due to Maker’s lack of body strength and girth he will not be able to hold his position in the post against most NBA forwards at this stage of his development.
One of the main criticisms from scouts is Maker’s feel for the game, especially on the defensive end. While Maker competes every minute he is on the floor the speed of which he recognizes the appropriate counter on defense is what trouble scouts. A team taking Maker in the draft would hope that with time, taking in numerous reps, getting experience in the D-League and being taught the intricacies of the game by NBA level coaches that the quickness of reading and reacting on defense will improve greatly.
Defending the pick-and-roll:
Great potential. Maker’s length, good lateral movement, quick feet and overall athleticism project his ability at defending the pick-and-roll and perimeter as elite. Combine Maker’s strong motor with the aforementioned physical tools it creates the potential of All-NBA defender in the mold of a Draymond Green. It is in this area that has the lowest level of risk. If Maker’s offensive game never develops he is seen at the very least of being an energetic, hard working and disruptive defender at the 4 or 5 position.
Average for a 7-footer but great potential. Maker’s potential always points back to his physical tools and not so much his production thus far in his career, even though he did average 13.1 rebounds in his two years playing high school ball in the United States.
Maker is long, quick, athletic and has a great motor which all point to him having success as a rebounder but like the concerns with his low post defense he will need to gain strength and girth to fight with NBA level big men. Maker struggles with securing defensive position, usually getting bullied out of the paint. Maker also routinely either forgets or just doesn’t recognize when to find a body to box out when a shot goes up.
Questionable. Has shown to be a willing passer but like reading defenses, he is slow to recognize the correct play to make and is turnover prone. Plays well as a ball handler in the open court without pressure but when in traffic, being pressured or in half court sets looks very uncomfortable passing the ball. Has the potential to lead fast breaks as a point forward by getting out and running off defensive rebounds by utilizing his ball handling skills and speed. Maker plays at a very fast rate while on the floor which as a result lead to a high number of turnovers. As he gains experience his reaction time should improve in the passing and play recognition area but it ever reaching the level needed to succeed in the NBA is a question mark.
Basketball IQ and intangibles:
Biggest question mark. Common critique from the scouts is that Maker should be progressing much quicker than he has and dominating the low level of competition which he has not. Getting lost on offense and defense, disappearing in games which should be impossible due to his size in comparison to that of his competition, turnover prone and routinely getting boxed out for rebounds by smaller players are the most frequent critiques by the scouts.
On the positive end, Maker is an undeniable hard worker on the court, chasing loose balls, working hard to recover on defense and contesting shots. Maker’s strong motor packaged with his amazing physical tools will improve his stock come draft day as many will see that his bottom in the potential ladder of an energy big man that makes things happen on the court if not so much in the box score is still incredibly valuable.
Projected draft position:
20th to 35th pick
Projected position in the NBA:
Power Forward, Center
Comparable NBA player(s):
Draymond Green, Robert Horry