The Detroit Pistons’ decision to cut the cord on Stanley Johnson centered mostly around money, and allowing more of it to flow, but let’s not pretend is was all about the Benjamins. In return for Johnson, the Pistons acquired the services of Thon Maker, the 10th pick of the 2016 NBA Draft. Maker is listed at seven-foot-one, around 220 pounds, and on the books at a low price thru the 2019-20 season.
So, what does Detroit have in Thon Maker?
It’s going to take some extended time to completely answer that question, but, as a blogger and fan, I have no interest in “extended time,” I want to know now! Below, we’ll take a glance at Maker’s brief time in Detroit while trying not to concoct sweeping and rushed generalizations about what to expect moving forward from the 22-year-old.
Don’t make any sudden movements - we wouldn’t want to scare him - but Thon Maker looks to be one of those modern-day, role-filling, stretch-bigs the kids are always talking about on the Twitter. I know what
you’re Stan Van Gundy is thinking, “Um, hello, Detroit already have one of those. His name is Jon MF-ing Leuer.”
In theory, SVG was right. In practice, though, Leuer’s inability to stay on the floor last year, and failure to put the long-ball through the hoop this year (despite his three-pointer heard ‘round the world against Atlanta) indicated the job still needed to be listed on CareerBuilder dot com at the trade deadline.
Maker’s 31 games in a Bucks’ uniform this year highlighted the seven-footer’s cozy relationship with the three-point line. 56 percent of all Maker’s Milwaukee field goal attempts came from beyond the arc, and he made a double-take worthy 52 percent of corner threes.
Sure, Maker might dabble from time to time with paint points, but he’s in Detroit to stretch the floor. As a backup, his pairing with Andre Drummond when the Pistons look to the bench has been promising to say the least. Flood the paint to nix Drummond’s roll at your own risk:
Two legit athletic bigs sharing the floor together means on any given possession, at some point, Detroit can engineer size-related mismatches. Below, as the Wizards scramble, Bradley Beal is too late and/or too short to contest the Maker corner-three after being kicked off Drummond by Bobby Portis:
It was Maker who took advantage of the mismatch this time, it might be Drummond’s turn next time.
With Drummond controlling the traditional center spot, Maker’s pick-and-pop potential might conjure up favorable memories of another backup stretch-four role player that successfully shared time with Dre:
Dwane Casey is still in the infancy stages of figuring out how to best use Thon Maker on offense, but you don’t have to squint hard to see what the big fella brings to the table.
It hasn’t been all sunshine and lollipops, though.
Anthony Tolliver isn’t the only former Pistons’ player that Maker shares hoops traits with. Unfortunately, it seems no one is ever going to confuse Maker’s hands with Herman Moore’s ball-hawking:
Sure hands are overrated anyway, just ask Lobster Claws Aron Baynes!
Thanks to his natural Red Bull energy, if I had to guess, more of this is also on the way:
It would be a serious understatement to say Thon Maker is just a willing defender. Rather, Maker has been an ACTIVE defender, one whose contagious puppy energy covers the entire basketball court. For the at-times lethargic Pistons, this is a good thing.
He’s already shown to be a shot-blocking force in the halfcourt:
And on the run:
When the redirection of shots isn’t a realistic option, Maker has used his four-lane highway width wingspan to, at the very least, contest opponents’ attempts:
More than anything else, Maker’s eagerness to lend a helping hand, especially from the weakside, shrould be noted:
Contesting shots and helping hands won’t attract the same amount of appreciation as blocked dunks amongst the casual fanbase, but I bet his teammates and coaches notice, and that’s what really matters.
All thriving defenses require stern discipline and attention to detail, with an unwavering commitment to remain disciplined to those details. In Detroit’s three-point win over the Atlanta Hawks immediately following the All-Star break, Maker was trusted by Casey to stay home on Dewayne Dedmon, a 39 percent three-point shooter on the year, in the corner on the Hawks’ final possession. If Atlanta was to force overtime, Maker’s sole responsibility was to make sure it wasn’t because of a Dedmon three. Mission, as simple as it sounds, accomplished:
When everyone individually performs on defense, more often than not, good things happen to the team. “Don’t leave Dedmon” may seem pretty straightforward, but we’ve seen when straightforward directions turns crooked:
Ouch, I apologize if you weren’t ready for that.
(Editor’s note: I was not ready for that. DAMMIT Mike.)
Thon Maker’s age, cost, and skill set is a match with Detroit’s needs and timeline. It’s only been a few games, but I’m glad we swiped right on Maker at the trade deadline.