The Milwaukee Bucks swung for the fences in the 2016 NBA Draft at pick 10. Thon Maker could be anything. He may also never quite make it. What we have seen from the athletic Australian this year has been glimpses of speed, range and a dash of surprisingly high basketball IQ. Bucks GM John Hammond can certainly be happy with his draft haul.
The last time the Bucks made a deep playoff run was 2001 with Ray Allen, Glenn Robinson and Sam Cassell. That team went all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals, and had some similarities with just how unique they were in comparison to how the league was playing. Back then Allen was putting up 5.7 three point attempts per game and running with some small ball lineups.
Now the Bucks are running with five lengthy defenders on the floor and present difficulties for any team they match up against. They have been at times, the darlings of the League Pass generation.
NBA Twitter is ready for that one freakish Giannis Antetoukounmpo moment in the playoffs. They're ready for a lockdown Malcolm Brogdon sequence. They're probably even ready to admit that Khris Middleton might be the most impactful player in Milkwaukee.
But is anyone ready for this?
Or what about this?
Maker is just pure, unadulterated fun. Forget the advanced stats, or even the counting stats - they're not interesting to look at. It's clear that he's raw, but watching Maker reminds us of how enjoyable watching basketball is meant to be.
He had every unskilled, lanky big man playing rec-league basketball thinking they should be trying to cross up opponents and splash three's in their faces.
Maker's high school mixtape may have been to his detriment initially when expectations became outlandish, but he's shown that he's got the temperament and understanding to fit within a team.
At this stage, it looks as though the Bucks will play the Raptors in a 3v6 match up in the playoffs. Most of the predicted match-ups make sense, but coach Jason Kidd could find some success at least in short spurts by trying to isolate Jonas Valanciunas in a pick and pop situation with Maker putting in work around the perimeter. It's a little wrinkle that could be the perfect opening for Maker when he gets his minutes starting the game.
Aside from the highlights, the one thing that's clear from watching Maker is his understanding of the game and where to be. Against the Knicks, Maker had two plays where he ran the floor and filled the lane on transition leading to easy dunks. He's got a nice synergy with Antetokounmpo and his aerobic capacity could become one of his strongest tools on a team that loves to run the floor.
He did it against the Wizards too. This one was a cheeky veteran move.
Maker looks to have the work ethic and attitude that will allow him to take the next step. Howard Beck did a feature story on Maker earlier in the year and Jason Terry was extremely complimentary of his rookie teammate. "When I look at Mr. Maker, the first impression you get is: This kid resembles Kevin Garnett a little bit, just in his stature and build."
In terms of his physical attributes, Maker clearly has the length that Garnett had, and his motor isn't quite at the same level, but it's getting there. Garnett was still able to rebound and score effectively as a rookie (averaged 10 and 8 in 24 minutes in his first season). Maker is not at that level, but it's not crazy to think that he could emulate Garnett's style even more.
Maker was hesitant to shoot from range at times early in the season, and he could get a little lost in terms of where to position himself on offense. It looked like it all clicked against the Pistons though. He was in the right positions for dump-off passes around the rim, he was efficient in the pick and pop and he also used speed in the post to get to the line.
He's shown that he can be an effective weak-side help defender too, which works perfectly with his fellow rookie Brogdon, who likes to funnel the opposing point guard towards the help when he's guarding the pick and roll. Coach Kidd has some great options when it comes to setting up his defensive schemes in the future.
Maker may not get more than 10 minutes per game in the playoffs due to shortened rotations, but he's shown that he's been ready to step up when given the opportunity. Whether it be a three, a block or even just a handy cameo, we're ready to meet our Maker.