After earning a significant role with the Milwaukee Bucks by the end of his rookie season, how can Thon Maker kick on and send his game to new heights?
It’s April 15, 2017, and the Milwaukee Bucks are playing their most important game in nearly two calendar years, as they face the Toronto Raptors in Game 1 of the NBA Playoffs.
Jason Kidd has a wealth of options to start at center: 10-year veteran Spencer Hawes, the team’s third leading scorer Greg Monroe, and $48 million man John Henson. Instead, Kidd opts to start a 20-year-old rookie, who averaged under 10 minutes per game up until to this point.
If it wasn’t already, it certainly became clear at that point that Thon Maker was a critical piece of the Milwaukee Bucks’ future.
Currently, the team has plenty of depth at the center position. On the other hand, Maker and Henson are the only centers under contract beyond the 2017-2018 season, the latter of which has been subject to many trade rumors this offseason. If the starting center of the future is on the current Bucks roster, it is more than likely going to be Thon Maker.
As Jason Terry put it in a feature on Maker for Bleacher Report last season:
“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, and then you watch him play? And you’re like, ‘Whoa.’”
Thon Maker played well in limited time during the 2016-2017 season. According to NBA.com, seven four-man combinations that included Thon recorded over 100 minutes last year. All seven of those lineups had a positive net rating, meaning they scored more points per 100 possessions, than they allowed with him on the court.
Thon provides a very unique and impressive skill set. According to NBA.com, only five players taller than 7’0″ shot above 37 percent from three-point range, while attempting 20 or more last season. Dirk Nowitzki, Marc Gasol, Pau Gasol, Jason Smith, and you guessed it, Thon Maker.
Maker provides rim protection on defense, while spacing the floor on offense, two valuable abilities in today’s NBA.
However, like all rookies, his game has serious warts and he will need to improve in several areas this year if he wants to take the next step.