(First posted at RealGM)
Draft day must have been really emotional for Thon Maker.
The day started with rumors that many teams took him off their board entirely due to heavy suspicion that he was older than his listed age. Some research on Reddit suggesting Maker graduated high school in 2010 gained traction, logic compelling enough that his guardian Ed Smith addressed the speculation with Draft Express.
But the Bucks bypassed those concerns and, so enamored with his potential, drafted him 10th overall, stunning just about everyone that night.
That was a jaw-dropping development not only because of the skepticism surrounding his age but also because despite high school compilations that stated him as the next coming of Kevin Durant, Maker was not a particularly polished prospect at the junior level.
His height and length are enticing and he’s shown enough glimpses of a potentially fully-rounded skill-set but strength and coordination issues made him look terrible against the highest level of competition he’s ever faced at the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit.
Perhaps the player with the most to prove, Maker’s five appearances at last week’s Las Vegas Summer League helped him establish it’s not as if he doesn’t belong out there alongside NBA-caliber talent, though doubts over what level of prospect he truly is remain.
MOTOR & INTELLIGENCE
As expected, Maker’s top skill at the pro level is his motor. He impressed with his ability to change ends of the court, his general activity close to the basket on defense and how hard he played.
Maker can get off the ground out of two feet pretty easily to contest shots at the basket and pursuing the ball off the rim on both glasses. Thanks to his energy and his seven-foot-three wingspan, he collected 11.2% of Milwaukee’s misses when he was on the floor, according to our stats’ database.
Maker also impressed with his intelligence. He showed to be an instinctive help-defender, rotating off the weak-side and stepping into the front of the rim in help-defense with pretty good timing. Guarding stretch big men around the three-point line, Maker showed to be attentive to his help responsibilities tagging the big diving to the basket. He also used his length well to make plays in the passing lanes in a few instances.
On offense, Maker rarely caught-and-held in the perimeter and showcased a lot of smarts moving off the ball to clear his side of the court for his teammates.
That said, when Maker had the ball, he wasn’t as impressive. Though he did make the extra pass to keep the ball moving around the perimeter, Maker didn’t show to be a particularly instinctive passer in his attempts to try creating something for others, lacking touch to deliver accurate passes on the move, posting no assists and nine turnovers in 151 minutes.
STRENGTH & COORDINATION
But also as expected, Maker’s biggest struggle at this stage of his development is his lack of strength and so-so coordination.
Though Maker proved attentive to his boxout responsibilities and looked to dominate the defensive glass, he was prone to getting pushed out of the way, especially when Sean Sweeney had him playing center during fourth quarters. Maker collected just 20.4% of opponents’ misses when he was on the floor, which is unimpressive for someone with his height and length. That lack of strength also hurt him in the post, where he was unable to hold ground.
Maker made his rotations in time but often failed to rise up vertically, making himself vulnerable to fouling – as he averaged 6.6 personal fouls per 40 minutes.
Closing out to stretch big men, Maker has the length to contest outside shots effectively but runs at these shooters off balance, opening up the middle of the lane for them to attack off the bounce, as guys like Raphael Putney, ZhaoBao Ge and Montrezl Harrell got by him unimpeded.
He was asked to hedge-and-recover a lot against the pick-and-roll but didn’t move as fluidly as you’d hope for someone with his physical profile, sometimes looking to be dragging his feet high in the perimeter. Dropping back to prioritize rim protection, his footwork looked a lot smoother, as he proved able to bend his knees and backpedal with good rhythm, without hyperactivity.
When he picked up smaller players on switches, Maker proved unable to stay in front, both when they shook him side-to-side or just got by him turning on the jets, though he proved able to recover on these straight line drives and contest shots from behind effectively.
On the other end, when Maker grabbed second chance opportunities, he showed to lack explosiveness gathering himself and going up strong to transform those offensive rebounds into immediate putback dunks elevating out of two feet, though the pressure he put on opposing big men led to 6.3 foul shots per 40 minutes, which is an appealing rate, especially considering he hit them at a 79.2% clip.
When he got a post-up opportunity here and there, Maker was unable to bully his way into any sort of short-range shot and his footwork was pretty poor, which was also the case when he tried taking opponents off the bounce from the perimeter. He lacks quickness and the handle to go side-to-side, also lacking speed to just blow by opposing big men on a straight line, often relying on a spin move to try getting by his man but more often than not stumbling his way into an off balance attempt or a turnover in such instances.
Mostly playing with either Josh Smith, Prince Ibeh or Devin Williams at center, Maker was not put in pick-and-roll that often, but when he was, he bobbled some passes catching the ball on the move, lacked strength to finish strong in traffic and didn’t show the sort of coordination needed to grab the ball at the foul line and make a play out of the short roll, either dribbling his way to the basket or assisting spot shooters around the perimeter.
Maker showed so-so touch on non-dunk finishes around length at the basket and on his turnaround hooks from the low post, converting just 40% of his two-point shots last week.
Though he played mostly around the elbows and the baseline, Maker often spaced the floor late in possessions and three-point shots accounted for almost a third of his shot profile. He remains a capable open-shot shooter when his feet are set and no opponent is rushing his shot, showcasing some nice touch in his delivery, but his release is still a bit methodical and he has not shown the ability to shoot on the move, working in pick-and-pop, remaining a below average proposition at this point of his development, missing 13 of his 19 three-point shots in Vegas.
Editor’s Note: Rafael Uehara is the managing editor of ‘Basketball Scouting’. More of his work can be found here or at RealGM, where he is a regular contributor. He can be followed on twitter as @rafael_uehara