Thon Maker, a 7 foot Sudanese-Australian center, has NBA dreams. The big man has lived in Sudan, Australia, the United States, and Canada, playing basketball with scouts always breathing down his neck.
This past weekend, Maker announced Via Bleacher Report that he planned on declaring for the 2016 NBA Draft in June. This was unexpected by any major media outlet, as Maker still technically is in High school.
However he is 19 years old, and his camp has stated that he graduated high school last Spring and returned for a post graduate year, which would give him a good case against any NBA brass against him declaring for the draft. But even if he can, should he?
The case for Maker to Declare – Daniel Zimmermann
You may have heard of Adrian Wojnarowski – Reporting maestro, NBA guru, and trade rumor extraordinaire. No matter his title, Wojnarowski is very, very knowledgeable when it comes to basketball. Which is why this one tweet may scare Maker and anyone cheering for him to enter the NBA –
I would care to argue that this tweet, as ominous as it is for Maker’s NBA future, it actually leads to an easy conclusion to this question that will make you feel silly after.
If Maker has been seen ‘regressing’ the past few seasons, as a 19 year old(!), then that is worrisome for him as a player. But for him as a man looking for work, then declaring for the NBA Draft and going into it this year is vital to his future.
Chances are his physical tools alone net him a first round pick in what is sure to be a very weak draft. A first round pick includes with it a fully guaranteed multi-million dollar contract. Even if he does spend time in the D-League like Woj suggests, it is important for him to get that big payday now and still get paid that during his time in the D-league.
The alternative would be going to a D-1 college for a year and then being the classic one and done. But that does not have nearly as many benefits as it does have risks.
The ESPN report lists his college options as Notre Dame, Indiana, Kansas, Arizona State, and St. Johns. While two of those programs (Kansas and Notre Dame) would be great for his development, those are still some pretty bleak college options for what is already considered a borderline first round pick.
He risks even further ‘regression’ if he enters NCAA play and then his stock will surely be shot.
Financially, it is the right decision for Maker to enter the draft. But also, from a player talent standpoint, I think Maker has what it takes to make it in the NBA.
Even if that requires time in the D-league, it isn’t every year that a 7 foot giant with ball handling skills and an outside stroke can be had in the mid-20s. If I were an NBA GM with a pick in the 20s, and Maker has a solid Pro Day and Combine, I wouldn’t hesitate to take him off the board.
The case for Maker not to declare – Grant Thomas
When I first saw a highlight video of Thon Maker, my first thought was: “Man, this kid needs to bulk up and play a couple years at a top college before even thinking about the NBA.”
Sure, that first thought seems a bit too appropriate for the question posed in this Flipside, but forgive me for paraphrasing.
Maker will likely be ruled eligible to enter the draft. His legal guardian Edward Smith told Bleacher Report that Thon had fulfilled all the academic and legal requirements to enter the draft.
In today’s money-driven market, young athletes such as Maker are encouraged to jump to the highest level at the earliest possible point in their basketball careers. The one-and-done is a tired topic in sports journalism; it’s beating a dead horse at this point.
But Maker wouldn’t even be doing that. If he is picked in the draft, he would be the most anticipated prospect out of high school since the trio of Dorell Wright, Martell Webster, and Andrew Bynum in 2005.
The track record for NBA picks of high school isn’t that great. Out of the 42 ever picked, nine have been selected to at least one All-Star game and one All-NBA team – Yes, that does include the perennial All Star talent of Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard, Tracy McGrady, and Amar’e Stoudemire. But only one has gotten as far as an All-Star game and no where else — Rashard Lewis. Three never played a game. The boom or bust factor has never been realer than it is with players coming out of high school.
But Maker is a special case. As Daniel covered above, he is a 7’1″, 218 pound 19 year old that moves, controls the ball, and shoots like a guard. That sounds great, right?
Wrong. Again…he is a 7’1″ kid who is a supreme athlete playing against high school opposition. If I was an NBA GM, I would need at least one year at any college program before I was confident to use a first round pick on him.
If he didn’t go in the first round, it would negate the financial motivation to even enter the draft. Entering the NBA at 20/21 isn’t a negative by any means, especially if it gives scouts more confidence in ability to improve and succeed in an environment that isn’t high school.
I believe Maker has incredible potential if correctly developed. That would entail time at another competitive league before the NBA. If not college, China or Europe for a year. Something to allow him to bulk up, round out his game, and come into the NBA a step ahead of where he would have been.
The old adage “better safe than sorry” fits well here. Maker should follow it.
What do you think? Let us know in the comments.