Thon Maker has been an enigma ever since his first exposure to the outside world after a highlight video came out of this tall and lanky man-child feasting on the court. His ability to handle, shoot, and do whatever he wanted astounded all those who saw him, whether that was in person or YouTube.
Fast forward to June 23, 2016 and the NBA Draft and that is where Maker's story really takes off. Projected as a high-risk, high-reward type player, Maker wasn't projected to go until the late first round or even the middle of the second as many teams were scared off by his inexperience against stronger opposing players and the uncertainty surrounding his age. The Milwaukee Bucks, however, knew this was there man and did not shy away despite the question marks that followed him around. Ex-Bucks GM (and current Magic GM) John Hammond had total faith in Maker and demonstrated this by taking him at number ten overall and shocking basketball minds inside and out of the NBA.
Despite playing sparingly throughout the first half of the season, Maker worked his way into the starting lineup due to his defensive intensity and ability to space the floor as he shot 37.8% from three. Maker fits perfectly into the Bucks mold – tall, long, and athletic – something that continues to frighten teams as they know nowhere is safe with Giannis, Middleton, Thon, and Co. patrolling the passing lanes and paint. Maker stood out in the playoffs with a stellar defensive effort and made the Raptors (especially DeMar DeRozan) think twice about challenging him at the rim.
The 2017-18 season will see an increased role for Thon as he will need to step up his offensive game in order to open up the court for Giannis to drive. Maker’s development is essential in the Bucks search for a championship in the next three or so years. Last year Jason Kidd used Maker very sparingly as he never had plays run for him and got most of his shots off of pick and pops and drive and kicks. One of the things that stood out from his mixtape all those years ago was his ability to handle the ball, something that many Bucks fans are looking forward to seeing if he has developed this talent at all over the summer. The ability to handle big men such as Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard (to only name a few) would make Thon unstoppable on the offensive end versus the big, bulky centers who are quickly dying off. His ability to shoot the three at a decent clip already makes him the ideal starter this next season a role that we will very likely see continue throughout the year. The big question is how many minutes he’ll get but he seems to have earned not only Jason Kidd’s trust, but also the respect of his teammates who laud his intensity and more importantly, communication and basketball IQ, two very underrated aspects of NBA basketball.
With Jabari Parker out until the All-Star break (though reports are that he’s closer to a return then we think), the Bucks will look to find that third major scorer, behind Giannis and Middleton to help keep the offense afloat until Parker’s return. If Thon could offer up 11 points per game in 25-30 minutes, while shooting 38% or higher from three then I think most Bucks fans would be extremely happy with that step up. The main thing to look for from Thon will certainly be, as previously mentioned, his ability to handle, something that will help expand his offensive game now and in the future. Big things could be on the horizon for the 7-footer from Sudan, we’ll know more in just a few days as the Bucks first regular season game is Wednesday, October 18 against the rearmed Boston Celtics. Stay tuned.