Based purely on team results, Thon Maker’s trade request to the Detroit Pistons followed the script.
The Milwaukee Bucks routed Detroit 4-0 in the first-round, on their way to the conference finals, while Maker had little impact on the series, averaging just 5.5 points and 2.3 rebounds in 17.3 minutes of playing time.
Maker failed to have the impact he has had in the past two postseasons, this time faced with Giannis Antetokounmpo charging at him, rather than with him.
Despite his third straight first round exit, Maker did receive opportunities to play that simply would not have been present in Milwaukee, and for that, he achieved his goal.
The Bucks did invest a prime lottery pick in the Australian, though Bucks GM Jon Horst disagrees with sentiment that suggests it was a wasted selection.
“I would just say in regard to Thon Maker, you’re a top ten pick when you get drafted and then you are an NBA player. You are a pick for a moment and then you’re a player,” Horst said.
The Bucks traded Maker to the Detroit Pistons, receiving Nikola Mirotic from the New Orleans Pelicans in a deal that included several second round draft picks, while the Pistons, Stanley Johnson, headed to the ‘Big Easy’.
“We ended up executing a transaction where Thon Maker was included, and some draft picks and we ended up with a starting calibre player. A guy who started in the second round of the playoffs last year. A guy who scored 30 in the playoffs last year for the New Orleans Pelicans,” Horst said in a conversation during the Bucks’ second round series with the Boston Celtics.
Thon Maker was a player All-Star Khris Middleton described as “the heart and soul” of the locker room. Maker’s trade request did come as a surprise to many, with his personal displeasure for a lack of playing time far from visible at the practice facility or on game night.
Horst stressed that Maker was a player the franchise believed in, while giving him the chance to request a change of scenery.
“Ultimately, he felt like he wanted to try and find an opportunity where he felt like he could better develop and have more of an opportunity. I told him how valuable he is to us, and how much that I want him to be here, but I’ll work with him and try figure it out,” Horst recalled.
“I told him we weren’t just going to do anything, but if we can find something that he wants, and that fits him, and makes sense for him, and works for us then we will try to do it and that’s exactly what we did.”
Showing that type of care for a player’s future at a rival franchise isintriguing, though the more time you spend talking with Horst, the more you realise he is invested in the all aspects of the players’ lives, not just on the court.
Horst was quick to clarify that his number one priority was clear, and that’s the Milwaukee Bucks.
“First and foremost, my job is to look after what’s best for the team, but I think every guy, and Thon, you’ve spoke to him, I care about the players and I want them to be successful.
“Ultimately, their careers matter to me whether that’s with us or with someone else so the balance is that I do know this league, and I do know situations better than you [the player] and if it’s a good situation where it can actually help you and it’s something you think you want then we’ll consider it, if it’s something that is going to be an equal or lesser situation to ours, then it doesn’t make sense for us to do it. I’m not going to do something just to satisfy [a player], it has to make sense for both of us.”
As far as Horst is concerned, there are certainly no hard feelings over the trade request, especially now that several months have passed.
“Everyone has to make their own decisions and have their own opinions on where they are at. I think the world of Thon, if you asked Thon about us, he would say really, really positive things about us.”
Maker remains a developing prospect heading into year four, with one year remaining on his rookie scale deal.
Meanwhile Mirotic is a free agent, his future in Milwaukee unknown.
With that in mind, the true winner in the trade will likely be determined in the coming years, but for now, Horst sits comfortably in his office at the Bucks practice facility, more than comfortable with the deadline day trade.
“I think we got tremendous return for Thon Maker in the transaction.”
That’s all you can ask.