(Originally posted at Upside & Motor)
Thon Maker has some of the most impressive highlight clips you will ever find on YouTube. Standing at seven-foot-one, it seems unreal how he is able to crossover opposing big men and hit step-back jump-shots as if he were a true perimeter player.
On the surface, Maker appears to be a revolutionary figure – a true seven-footer with the handles and the mobility of a perimeter player. But a closer look reveals he, just like any other 18-year-old out there, is still far from being someone who can “change the game”.
COORDINATION & STRENGTH
The top issue Maker faces in his development is his lack of coordination. He has soft hands and quite good handles for someone his size but struggles making plays off the dribble. Yes, clips of him crossing over dudes exist but the far more common occurrence is Maker trying to go around an opponent with his long strides but often losing his balance, his momentum charging forward, his pivot foot.
Maker can handle the ball on the break but rarely gets to the rim on drives against a set defense in the half-court, prone to having the ball stripped in traffic, and even struggles attacking closeouts. These issues make it tough to project him as a perimeter player at this point.
His favorite move is flashing to the foul line, turning slowly to face the defender and attempting to blow by him for a short drive. That’s often unsuccessful as Maker doesn’t have an explosive first step, can’t change speeds and struggles to sustain his balance through contact.
When he does manage to stumble his way to the basket, Maker is hardly in a position to elevate and hang in the air or finish around the rim with explosiveness against an opponent contesting him.
From a prototypical big man standpoint, Maker struggled to catch passes on the move and to bring the ball down, gather himself and elevate off two feet at the Hoop Summit. He also hasn’t done well with his back to the basket against a higher level of competition within his age group.
Maker improved his physique since transferring to Canada, listing as a 218-pounder at the Nike Hoop Summit, but that extra weight hasn’t yet translated into strength. He struggles to establish deep position in the low block, often gets pushed off from his spot and couldn’t back down high profile opponents at the Hoop Summit and the Fab 48. He was unable to hold his ground against physical types on the other end as well.
Without a power game and the footwork needed to set up turnaround or running hook attempts, Maker relies on his face-up jump-shot to score from the post. And that’s a legit weapon of his. Maker is not a consistent knockdown shooter just yet but has a beautiful touch on his step-back, fadeaway jumper and should develop this as his top skill moving forward.
He’s a capable catch-and-shoot three-point shooter, with great mechanics on the release (also witnessed in his foul shooting form) but a bit loose and methodical bringing the ball up. With his mobility in open space, the dream would be for Maker to develop into the sort of shooter who can come off side screens or take shots out of the pick-and-pop but that’s just a dream for now, as he is a mere open-shot shooter at this stage of his development.
Another area his touch shines through is his passing. Maker has demonstrated the ability to scan the floor, facing the defense or with his back to the basket in the low post, and assist cutters diving to the rim. As mentioned earlier, he is not an option to run pick-and-rolls or pass on the move out of isolation at all for now and even making plays out of the short roll would probably be a stretch for him. But Maker could absolutely be an asset to help facilitate offense from the elbows or playing above the foul line, with his height putting him at a position of leverage as it permits to see over the defense.
Just about every event he participates, Maker impresses with his activity. While he struggles moving in tight spaces, Maker looks absolutely great on the open floor, sprinting up the court without the ball in transition with a lot of fluidity, able to play above the rim as a target for lobs.
Below the rim, he is a very good offensive rebounder. Maker has ‘second jump-ability’ to keep fighting for 50-50 balls in the air and a seven-foot-three wingspan to rebound outside of his area. He averaged 3.4 offensive rebounds per game at the Under Armor Association circuit this year and even in his poor appearance at the Hoop Summit, he managed to grab five offensive rebounds in just 14 minutes of playing time.
On the defensive glass, Maker does look to box out more often than not but doesn’t tend to get physical with his opponents and has shown only so-so instincts tracking the ball off the rim with a lot of quickness. Most of his boards on that end tend to be uncontested.
He can play above the rim as a shot blocker thanks to his length and ability to get off the ground in a pinch, averaging 2.2 blocks per game at the Under Armor Association. He is also able to contest perimeter shots effectively. But it’s unclear for now whether Maker is the sort of rim protector who only blocks the front of the rim when he is parked inside the lane or a full time rim protector, always focused on coming off the weak-side to be a constant shot blocking threat.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at Upside & Motor, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara