Here is the case for the Los Angeles Clippers using a pick in the 2016 NBA Draft to select Thon Maker. Will the reward be bigger than the risk?
“With the 25th (or 33rd) pick in the 2016 NBA draft, the Los Angeles Clippers select, Thon Maker, Orangeville Prep” (in my best Adam Silver voice.)
The risk/reward couldn’t be greater for the 7’1″ prospect from Australia. Most NBA insiders would agree that Maker is not NBA ready, not for quite some time. Whether it’s his slim frame, his ability to fit in an offense or keep up with elite opposition, insiders believe he may be a few years out from playing legitimate minutes in the NBA.
I beg to differ.
I can foresee Thon Maker as an actual contributor in the 2017-18 season. Maker can take his rookie year, add some weight, and gradually start developing his unique game in low minutes.
To me, he’s comparable to Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Giannis, a then raw, freakish athlete, was drafted 15th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2013, and just a few years later, he is emerging as one of the most versatile players in the NBA. He can beat you off the dribble, dunk on you, or dish out passes like a point guard (that’s literally the case after his positional change this season).
Giannis is long in every direction, and his 7’3″ wingspan is intimidating when he’s guarding you. He can go against fours and fives with his length and cover guards on the perimeter with his quickness.
I want you to picture this (hypothetical) starting lineup: Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Antetokounmpo, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan. It sounds like that strangely long and athletic small forward (or any talented small forward) might be the piece that’s missing.
I do not feel, however, that Antetokounmpo is a player the Clippers could ever acquire. If he keeps improving (like he has the past two years), in 2017-18, Giannis is going to get a max deal. He’s the future of the Bucks along with Jabari Parker and he won’t be going anywhere.
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However, I do feel like Thon Maker is the next best thing for a team like the Clippers, with no lottery picks and almost no cap space. The small forward position has been a revolving door for the last couple of years. With names like Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Lance Stephenson, Luc Mbah a Moute and Wesley Johnson, no one can seem to lock in as the wing the Clippers need. Even when the Clippers made a play for Paul Pierce last year, it was about four years too late.
With Griffin’s vastly improved range and Maker’s skill set that can be more reminiscent of a small forward at times (similarly to fellow 7-foot prospect Dragan Bender), the Clippers could partner Blake in some gigantic lineups with Maker at the three, depending on how his versatility develops as he adds more weight to his frame.
Who would guard the size and rebounding of that lineup? Of course, it would only be certain rotations if Maker reaches that level and he wouldn’t be a go-to small forward, but it’s intriguing to think about to counteract small-ball teams at times. At least, those are the positives.
Either way, with father time and playoff losses creeping up on the bulk of the Clippers roster, it’s time to start considering the future. Thon Maker has the potential to be a very big (no pun intended) part of that future.