The Detroit Pistons swapped two disappointing lottery picks in a deal for Thon Maker and Stanley Johnson (later rerouted to New Orleans). Before Johnson was traded along with four(!) second-round picks for Nikola Mirotic, our friends at Brew Hoop exchanged some info so each fan base could learn more about their latest acquisition.
The shelf life of the Brew Hoop piece was only a couple hours before the Mirotic trade, but it looks like Maker is in Detroit for the long haul (or at least the rest of the season). In talking with Adam Paris it was pretty shocking how both of us were essentially describing the same player — a tantalizing lottery pick with such little offensive game that their NBA future seems pretty murky.
So don’t get too excited, Pistons fans. Thon Maker’s hands apparently make Aron Baynes’ look like Kawhi Leonard’s, and he might max out at as a stretch-5 corner 3-point shooter who can maybe switch defensively.
You might also be interested in reading what I had to say about Johnson over at Brew Hoop. It’s no secret that I wasn’t the biggest fan of Johnson, but with the responsibility of offering up the unvarnished truth to a curious fan base even I was surprised at just how negative I was.
Here are some question Adam Paris was nice enough to answer to help us all learn about Thon Maker
1. Thon Maker demanded a trade earlier this season. What was the reaction among the Bucks fan base? Is he just a young player who saw no avenue to playing time or does this indicate some sort of issue with his attitude?
Thon has been nothing but the consummate professional/towel-waver while with this Bucks team. Not only that, but his teammates seem to love his energy too, often times getting outlandishly excited for his success, which is what made his trade request seem so odd. I think most fans were genuinely puzzled by the Woj bomb. The more realistic reason is just as you sad, little avenue to playing time with the emergence of Brook Lopez in this Bucks ecosystem. When the offseason started, I’m sure he envisioned himself as a strong backup/fringe starter with only John Henson around. When Henson was shipped out, and Maker still couldn’t snag minutes, I think he was ready to find an out. Ironically, the request backfired on him when even a washed version of Ersan Ilyasova sucked up his court time. Expect plenty of bench shenanigans though.
2. How has Thon developed on the offensive end? I know he was a project coming out of the draft, and the team wanted to turn him into a stretch 5. Is he strictly a catch-and-shoot player or does he have a diverse skill set?
Outside of a few flashes, including a career game his rookie year against Detroit, at this point Thon is basically only a stretch-5. His shooting dipped from his first to second year (37.8% to 29.8%), but he’s a decent enough shooter at 33.2% from deep overall. He is nailing 35.1% from deep on catch-and-shoots, but the guy in those mixtapes is nonexistent. He can’t dribble and create on his own; he’s in the 1st percentile among Bigs on Cleaning The Glass for percentage of shots that are assisted (95%) this season. He’s also a horrific rim finisher for such a large man at just 60% this year and 51% last year. Expect him to jumble passes quite often, which hinders what limited ability he has as a rim-runner. His hands are suspect and slippery. For a guy who blew away combine numbers, he also has trouble jumping to finish a dunk. Sorry in advance for the first time he’s blocked by the rim.
3. How has Thon developed on the defensive end? Is he a multipositional defender who can use his length and athleticism or is he just a really tall guy with no muscle who gets pushed around and can’t guard any position?
Defense is still the talent well that’s the richest to tap in my opinion. He showed impressive switchability in last year’s playoff matchup against Boston, when he emerged from bench obscurity to give Milwaukee a jolt it needed to reach seven games. He is capable at sliding his feet to stick with some guards around the perimeter, and this clip (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P7vh71-y3gw) of him guarding Kyle Lowry was an impressive calling card for a while. He can get out of position beneath the basket sometimes going for blocks, but his activity level around there is usually a boon. However, depending on Detroit’s system, Maker has a penchant for getting overactive and whirling his way out of position while trying to over-help or jump passing lanes. He’ll still get bullied beneath the basket, and his rebounding (see butterfinger hands above) is weak, but he’ll give you some versatility Drummond doesn’t offer.
4. Obviously, the Bucks are contending for a title so they might not have room for a developmental prospect. Do you think a team that invested minutes and time into Thon could see dividends from that or is he pretty well a finished project by now?
Contrary to the MVP comparisons Kevin Garnett espoused regarding Maker, I’m not sure there’s a whole lot more ceiling for his head to hit. Defensively there’s certainly some room for improvement, but I can’t see his body filling out a lot more than it has, and you can’t really teach a person how to have hands? I guess the question is whether he can be the anchor of a defense, and I’m not sure he reached that point in Milwaukee. I would hope he can provide some different looks on both ends of the floor with bench units, but I wouldn’t put money on him developing much more offensively. Just hope that his 3-point shooting remains consistent.
5. How old do you think Thon is, really?
Given he gobbles up calories like a college kid (https://www.nba.com/bucks/video/teams/bucks/2016/07/22/1469204488264-160721-thon-nutritionmov-673811), I’ll say he’s either his given age or a year older.