Thon Maker

PF/C Orangewood Academy

7-1, 216,  9'2.5" SR, 36.5" MV, 

MVR 12-3! 7-3 WS, SV 32",

Taking It.

By Tom Mahoney

Maker might be the toughest prospect to figure out. He is a KG type prospect, who decided not to compete with a team last year. That has to be taken as a negative, because he didn't compete in a team setting. But only traveled occasionally to tournaments with the Academy guys. He did play for the Orangewood team in more games than I thought. But his path while odd is not necessarily a terrible one. He choose to spend the year at the Orangewood Athlete Institute in Canada. Which is a Euro kind of gym where they take young athletes and attempt to turn them into world class athletes. A kind of Russian and Chinese Olympic assembly line idea from the 60s and 70s.

Maker attended the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, where he was measured as the third-tallest player without shoes at 6'11.75"[19] and recorded the highest no-step vertical jump (32") of any player over 6'11" in NBA Draft Combine history.

He was competing against high school kids at the Academy who he simply beat the crap out of every day. So has he lost some sense of team? He was training to play for himself not his team and teammates. But, he worked his butt off. He trained and trained and trained, while other kids went to school and class. He did drills, which very obviously improved his skills. Then he lifted, which obviously made him heavier and stronger. 

He has KG type potential, but is all seems so Todd Marinovich-like to me. He gained so much on the court physically in that setting, but how much did he lose mentally and team wise. He comes from the Sudan, which is just a horrible-horrible war zone, and has been moved all over the world by his legal guardian Ed Smith, who is a little scary. "There's a documentary in the works," Smith said. "So I don't want to spoil the full story." That just sounds too much like Daddy Marinovich to me.

Smith seemed very obsessed at getting him attention. "I just have to keep on working," Thon said. "That’s not where I’m at. That’s where they’re predicting I’ll be at. It’s the hard work that gets me the attention. So really, I’ve got to stay motivated, and I’ve got to keep on working." Then once he's comfortable and making some friends he had to move again. 

Smith went to such extensive trouble keeping him inside the bubble that it is now hurting his draft stock. "Most kids would go to an Oak Hill, or a Montverde Academy or a Finday Prep [or Duke]," Smith said "Part of this was the whole hype machine behind Thon. I wanted to get him away from it so he could focus. I wanted him to get away from the craziness and have him enjoy his high school years. For me, I feel you become a player by pulling more weight. We didn’t want to go to a team that was stacked." That quote is terrifying. Hiding him from the best coaches, players, and teams like he's some kind of bizarre hostage. Again, the idea of team and team work was ripped away from him (though he showed to be a good teammate on the court last season). It is about hype and attention, and not playing on a team where he might plant some roots in the ground.

What would have been best for Thon is being coached by the best coaches, in the best programs, and playing against the best high school kids. The best players play at these programs for a reason. They have the best coaches and the best programs. But the best coaches will also have a lot of influence on a kid. "Maker is tough," the HC of Oak Hill academy Steve Smith said. "He made a couple of 3s in the first half. He’s highly skilled for his size, obviously. If I coached him, I would like to see him go down low a little more. They say that’s not his game, but he needs to add that to his game if it’s not. He’s highly skilled. I mean, he can put it on the floor. He can shoot it. And I can’t tell how well he passes it. He’s an awfully good player." The best programs will have a lot of influence on a kid. Smith apparently couldn't have that. 

Thon made himself eligible for the NCAA. Krzyzewski himself was looking like he was offering him a scholarship. "That was a special moment," Maker said like he wanted to go to Duke. "I went to Cameron and got to see the crazy fans they are and also got to talk to Coach K a little bit. He’s a wonderful guy. He gave me some advice. You have to work out with the right team, take the right shots with that team, work hard with that team and be around people [that] are going to work hard also so you don’t slack off." But suddenly Smith yanked him out of the country again. 

Bringing him to his forth country since he "discovered" him. Why? Did his guardian fear he was going to lose control? "Thon had gone to a middle school combine," Smith said. "He did really well. So from there, I thought about some of the kids I had sent to the U.S. A lot of them, it takes a longer time for them to acclimate and also to the pace of the game. So I thought if Thon were able to come here when he was younger, he would have a better chance." So he took him to Australia. Then the US. Then Canada, like he was some kind of fugitive avoiding any personal relationships except inside the bubble.

One of the many things that made KG so great was his fierce sense of team. Team first and team goals first and foremost. Maker was bred to be the opposite. "I don’t know what it will do, but I do know it will be huge," Thon said. "I had to make the best decision for myself and let them decide what’s best for them." His personal goals override everything else in his world. 

He is all hype inside the bubble, but then hates the hype. "People have gotta stop with the mix-tape stuff," Thon said. "That's not me. I bet you those people that put out those mix-tapes haven't really sat through a whole game of mine and watched it and saw my defensive rotations, the way I communicate to my teammates, the way I pass the ball. They probably got the bad passes, the one-handed passes, and didn't get the fundamental two-handed ones, or jump stop, or skip passes. They don't get to see all of that stuff. So some people use that to identify me, the mix-tapes, and I just told the teams what it is. That's not me." And you know it is Smith making those hype-Tapes.

Personal goals dictated to him by some guy named Smith, including the decision to only play in all-star games at Orangewood. "He has a lot of people advising him on what’s best," Lesovsky, one if his coaches at Orangewood said. "All-star games can be unpredictable and there’s a risk of injury. From here on, you have to put yourself in the best situation to put a good foot forward and these showcases aren’t great for that, especially for Bigs. These games are very guard-dominated. He wants to be out there playing one last time, but from a business perspective, he has lots of things he needs to consider." He has KG's body, but what has been done to him mentally in the bubble makes it all such a huge risk. 

I'm not saying he's KG, but he looks like him on the court. "Kevin Garnett," Thon said about who he reminds himself of. "I see myself as, later on, being a modern version of Kevin Garnett. What he brings in terms of intensity, leadership, hard work that's contagious and is going to rub off on his teammates, a defensive presence and offense too." He looks like KG moving on the court physically. His size, hyperness, long arms and leap. He can line up one on one with another big and embarrass him defensively, and make him look like he is purposely throwing the drill. Super intense on defense like KG, when he is locked onto one man. 

He is essentially a high school kid with KG's body beating the crap out of high school players. So the question is when do you draft him? And by the time he is physically mature enough to play in the NBA, is his rookie contract up? And then he is gone like Jermaine O'Neal left the Blazers for Indiana. Plus, he is not even playing for a team last year. He played for a basketball academy, where he just worked out and played basketball all day against other kids. Nobody thinks he is capable of playing in the NBA next season, which is fine for the Celtics. He needs to be stashed overseas or in the D-League next year. He is playing against competition that is so bad that they look like they are purposely trying to make him look great.

He made it look like he was playing at such a low level of competition that it is impossible to judge. It is like beating up on me in the Paint, a 6-nothing fat guy. So what! However, if competition is anywhere near real than so is Thon. Because he is great on the offensive boards. He is a hyper machine taking off down court. He has an elite physical body, and that quick twitch hyperness that made KG a champion. 

Great speed in the open court and can attack with a dribble or two on the Break. "He’s a unique talent," Lesovsky said. "He can go inside and out. He’s really good around the rim. He’s pretty athletic. All of those things." He also has the smarts and awareness to make some passes inside. He is clearly getting some good coaching up in Canada on individual skills.

He is one of the top five physical talents in this Draft. "Maker has a versatile skill level and appears to gravitate outside on offense," Carl Berman said. " He has a nice looking shot and can handle the ball but would better be used inside. Unfortunately at this point he’s just not strong enough and has trouble keeping position against strong and skilled players. He seems to be coachable, a good teammate and has a good energy level on the court. We’ll be interested to see if he can add strength and weight in the near future. Depending on workouts he can still be possibly be selected as early as late in the lottery based on potential." He has gained weight and kept his great leap and aggression.

He is explosive going to the hoop and blocking shoots. When he goes against guys his size (who don't have NBA talent), he can leap up and rip the ball out of their hands. Great defensive strength and instincts inside against players his size. Like KG, he is thin but he is not weak. He is a beast on the boards who goes and gets it (but it is always against guys who can barely get above the rim). In basketball you are given nothing, you take. He takes the boards with a near KG like aggression. He will charge down the lane from the 3-point line, against legit competition, and go and slap the ball up over some of the best young players in the world, and try to tick tac it to himself. Great hands. Like KG, his hands are a little hard, but he outfights guys for everything inside and gets the ball.

Not the offensive player KG is, but he still is 19-years old, and KG was still in high school at that age as well. "[He] has a terrific motor. He plays with great effort on both ends. Maker is a very good rim runner and consistently looks to beat defenders to the opposite end for easy buckets. Maker is also a good athlete that gets off the ground quickly. Maker's best value is in his ability to block shots. Maker, who has a 7-3 wing span, has good timing and attempts to block everything in his area.," wrote. "Offensively, Maker handles the ball very well for a guy his size. At times in his career, he's faded to the perimeter too much and focused on shooting long-range shots. While he's capable of making jumpers from time to time, he's at best when he plays close to the rim, where he can use his energy to get put backs or score from close range. Maker is still raw on the block and lacks a go-to move or counter moves. That said, he can finish with hooks." He is a high flyer is looks great in the air, but can look weak and awkward with the ball in his hands on the ground. 

He is already lifting weights and getting stronger. He needs to play wider on defense. But he strikes at the ball with cobra like hands. I just love his defense inside against stronger guys. "The question for NBA teams as they make their decision this June is going to be whether or not they feel Maker is worth the time and energy," Sam Vecenie said. "Because it's going to take a lot of both of those things. As mentioned, he's still only 19, and has a solid ceiling due to his potential to shoot it and protect the rim. But his game isn't polished enough at this point to play at the highest level, and it's going to take some time to get there. Some scouts genuinely do not think he's a real prospect at this stage." He can make guys look absolutely foolish with his paint defense. 

He has a nice quick release on his 3-point shot. He put his arms out in front of him too much last year, and didn't shot it over his head like KG, as he was doing before. Great hoops and agility. He is a true 7-footer who can 360-dunk in transition. He can take the hit, get his body twisted, and still throw down the power dunk. Great instincts on blocks. He can take a two step from the foul line and block the shot of a guy inside. He can catch the ball off the rim with one hand and slam it back down. Plays higher than anyone else in this Draft. A 9-3 standing reach + 36" vertical leap = 12-3 Max Vert Reach!

He is a righty, but he can shoot a hook inside with either hand. With his length and leap that is a big deal. "Thon Maker is an incredible talent," Clark said, who claims to have watch him play over a hundred times. "He has big-time athleticism, and length. He’s got superstar written all over him. He has great explosiveness. However, when he wants to be a perimeter player, that negates what he could do best as a shot blocker and rebounder. He doesn’t shoot the three great, but he has a great shot from mid-range. He’s also very fluid around the basket." He is a good shooter from the free throw line, which is important at his age. He also shot over 30% from Three, and it doesn't matter where you play, a 3-point shot is a 3-point shot. Strong lefty jump hook, that he can shoot drifting left and off balance. 

He can drive to the hole lefty, and hit a teammate cutting to the hole on the right. That is a big time skill for a 7-foot tall baller with a 12'3" MVR. Terrific handle. He can give a shake an' bake, crossover to his left, dribble twice, and bounce pass it to an open teammate. However, he too often looks like he is playing against the worst competition you can find. That is what all the caution is all about. He plays against guys who barely bother to get a hand up when he shots sometimes, and he consistently humiliates these guys. He has skills against guys who have no skills to stop him.

Thon is a terrifying buyer beware player who was taken out of the Sudan and put in a bubble. But, when the Celtics pop up on the Board at 16, there is no way they can pass on this kid. He literally has KG potential, and it showed up on the court all the time. Now I don't say that lightly. KG is one of my favorite all time Celtics, and might have been number one if he had spent his entire career in Green. And that is saying something because I learned everything about basketball watching Larry. But KG was frenetic on the court on defense and offense. Thon has a chance, though in truth it is smaller than it looks like watching Tape, but I am saying he has a chance to be a KG type taker on the court. 

If the Celtics get Bender at 3 and Maker at 16, they will come out of the Draft with a pair of guys who combined would give the most upside of any pair of guys taken in this Draft. And I say that as a Simmons guy. Simmons has super star potential, and the people that don't see it make me crazy. So when I say those two guys together would bring the best upside in the Draft to the Celtics, you know I mean it.

Maybe the best way to describe Thon is that is a Euro with Euro big man skills. But he is also an American, who has garnered a lot of experience playing ball in American. So he has an American game as well. So the question is can he blend the best of both worlds, or should I say four or five worlds, and become a star? Or will he flash and burn out before it is all over? That is what Danny has to figure out. 

Maker Vs Harry Giles:

Harry Giles was the number one rated player in the 2017 Draft before he hurt his knee. So this is a good match up, even though it is an All-Star game. Maker easily wins the tap. Getting about a foot above Giles (:14). He is fast down court. When he is in the open court he is unstoppable (:17). That jumper does look more like KG than the stuff he was showing at the Academy (:21). He can score from the left block (:28). But again this is an all-star game where he is finally let out of his cage and is able to go all out, and most of the other all-stars aren't.

He gets back on D. Gets himself in good position, and even gets a hand on the ball. But Giles just bullies it in (:34). When he goes up in defense, it is higher and more aggressive than anyone else (:41). He has a nice aggressive dribble to the right and can shoot it in multiple ways and put it down (:42). Just hanging around the rim getting aggressive. Look how long his arms are as he hangs on the rim. He has the best basketball body in this Draft. It is 100% mental and maturity for him (:47). This is a great shot for him (:55). He gets the ball slapped, and recovers. Then he takes the shove from behind and still puts it in. He plays well after contact.

Notice Giles stays outside when Thon is on him. He is beating him down defensively like he did against the scrubs at Orangewood (1:14). He has better range on his jumper than KG did at the same age (1:19). He gets too high, and gets beaten by the quick move. You can't go scarecrow on the court (1:21). So much potential to go along with so many unknowns. But if the Celtics come away with Bender and Maker at 3 and 16 than they would have the most potential of any pair of players in the Draft.

Maker Vs Giles:

Maker Vs Spielman:

This is actual Tape of him playing an actual game with his actual team. You can already see how much bigger and more mature his body is. His work out schedule at Orangewood was fanatical to say the least. They would drill and play games. Then rest and lift. Then hit the gym again. So much for all the time he spent in class studying to graduate. Spielman measured out at 6-8, 272, with a 7-1 WS (:07). But they didn't really match up much.

They did not put the PF Spielman and Maker on each other. Which is just not right. We know Thon can dunk (:20). We know Thon can hit the Three (:26). That actually looked like KG on the catch and shoot (:33). First, check out the height difference on the two guys. Then watch the agility as he turns in the air for the reverse dunk (:40). He is not all grace and style. But he does have a good handle for a true 7-footer. He can take hit, lose the ball a little, regain control, and scoop it in. That is a great play from a true Center (:47). Think I'm joking about KG potential (:56). Watch this one dribble with the left hand and the KG dunk.

Maker Vs Spielman:


Maker Vs DeAndre Ayton:

Ayton is the most similar player physical to Thon that he has ever faced. You can see his size and hoops as he wins the jump ball to start the game. That is very impressive. Though the spotlight on the jumpball was a bit much (1:14). So here he is driving on maybe the first guy he has ever played against who can match his size. He takes the big hit on the reach in, bounces off his chest to create space, steps away from the double, and puts it in (1:20). That is a great shot.

Like Bender he has some PG-skills. I don't know why they would have him on the point running the offense, but he makes it work. He dribbles up to the top of the key. But really only one-dribbles as he attacks right. He picks up the ball as he absorbs the hit and the double comes over. Watch the nice kick out pass to the open teammate (1:26). That is a legit assist off the drive. I worry the most about his team work, and the ability to play with a team. But he certainly has shown that he understands team concepts and can hit his teammate for the open shot. And I can't stress this enough, he is not playing against a scrub here.

He fronts Ayton, again doing what he is coached to do. He has not faced a lot of guys who can catch a high lob pass over him (1:43). You really don't want to see him playing a PG role. Again, trust issues with teammates? But watch this pass off the dribble. One of the most underrated aspects of KG's game was that he was a great passer. That was a great pass by Thon (1:48). He gets nice inside position on Ayton, and gives him a nice elbow in the chest (1:53). But the ball just bounces over his head. More importantly he gets a little lower and wider than we have seen, but he still needs to get wider and stronger on defense.

He gets the great block on the other Big (2:00). He has to step up and cut off the driver in the nice help defense (2:02). Posting Ayton who he can't just overwhelm. He catches the ball, turns, and drives hard to the right to draw the foul (2:07). Back up top again. He drives into Ayton. Watch the nice elbow to ward him off. He takes the huge hit from the angry Ayton, and calmly goes to the line and hits two (2:12). He grabs the loose ball and attacks down court. He dribbles past one defender. He tries to pass to a teammate on the wing (2:27). You really don't want him doing that.

He receives the pass cutting to the hole. He goes up strong, and gets hit from behind. He spins back to the right, and takes the hard slap from the little guy and another big hit from the angry Ayton, and then calmly hits the free throw (2:34). I really like this tape. He goes to the hole, and you know he is going to get another big hit. He sticks his hand into angry Ayton's face to push him off. Only Ayton did a better job hitting him. He absorbs the big hit in the face and goes down hard (2:53). Then he goes to the line and calmly hits the free throw.

Out on the wing past the 3-point line. He two dribbles left. Spins, and puts the elbow on the other Bigs back. Then goes up strong with the righty scoop. I love that elbow and move. That is an American basketball move (3:03). He tic tacks the ball to himself, like Euros love to do. He attacks down court and advances the ball nicely to the wing. But watch the give and go. He gets the ball back, goes up like he is going to dunk, and hits his teammate for the free dunk. That is two nice passes on one play. That is some nice advanced basketball right there (3:14). He has the ability to just make other Bigs look helpless. I've seen him do it against guys that he makes look like scrubs, but Ayton is not a scrub (3:27). He is a natural born Rim protector (3:35). He was named MVP of this Tournament.

Maker Vs Anton:



Maker's Bio:

Early life: Maker was born in a village in what is now South Sudan. His uncle, a local administrator, arranged for Maker, his younger brother, Matur, and his aunt to escape the civil war to Uganda when Maker was five. From there, they were accepted as refugees by Australia; they then moved to Perth, Western Australia, where the family eventually settled down.

When he was 14, Maker was discovered by Edward Smith, an Australian of African-American heritage who helps children from migrant backgrounds receive opportunities they otherwise wouldn't get. Smith had previously helped fellow Sudanese immigrants Ater Majok and Mathiang Muo. Playing soccer at the time he was discovered, Smith offered his aunt to feed, clothe and educate Maker in Sydney. In Sydney, Maker played basketball for the St. George Basketball Association during 2011, where he dominated on the court and subsequently made friends off it. However, just before the team's playoffs, Maker and Smith left to attend a talent camp in Texas.

Once in the United States, Maker attended two schools in Louisiana, including Metairie Park Country Day School, before finally settling down at Carlisle School in Martinsville, Virginia. During his freshman and sophomore years playing for Carlisle's varsity team, Maker averaged 22.2 points, 13.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.4 steals and 4.5 blocks over a total of 53 games.

On 5 September 2014, Maker and his brother enrolled at the Athlete Institute in Mono, Ontario where Edward Smith was already an assistant coach. In conjunction with the Athlete Institute, the brothers enrolled at Orangeville District Secondary School in the nearby town of Orangeville.

On 18 February 2015, Maker announced his decision to reclassify into the 2015 class, which would have made 2014–15 his final year of high school. He later participated in the 2015 Nike Hoop Summit in Portland, Oregon.[10][11] Playing alongside fellow Australian Ben Simmons in the April 11 game, Maker recorded 10 rebounds, two points and one block as the World Team defeated Team USA, 103–101.

On 18 June 2015, Maker announced his decision to remain in the Class of 2016, and returned to Orangeville Prep for the 2015–16 season. Maker noted how stressful it was working toward entering the Class of 2015, with the issue centered on his workload and the pressure with "trying to get it all done at once".[13] He was being recruited by Arizona State, Florida State, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Notre Dame, St. John's and UNLV.

On 3 April 2016, Maker declared his intentions to enter the 2016 NBA draft, a decision that required a ruling from the NBA to determine his eligibility.[15] To skip a year of college, Maker had to convince the NBA he graduated from Orangeville Prep in 2015. He successfully did so, proving he graduated from high school in 2015 but stayed another year as a post-graduate student by his own choosing, fulfilling both the minimum age and one year removed requirements to the NBA's satisfaction. With a successful ruling, Maker is set to become just the second player in more than a decade to make the leap from high school in North America straight to the draft[16] and the first to play in the NBA since the league introduced the "one-and-done" rule for high school students in 2005.


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