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Aussies in NBA Playoffs: Could Thon Maker be Milwaukee's X-Factor?
The Milwaukee Bucks have reached the playoffs for just the third time in seven years. And this time, Thon Maker will be making his playoff debut in his rookie season, with an exciting young Bucks team that shows plenty of potential.
At only 20 years old, the Australian understands just how big of an achievement it is.
In talking to ESPN.com, he explained his thinking. “It’s crazy. I’m in my first year, now the playoffs, it’s kind of like a Cinderella story, but I can’t see it that way.”
What Maker’s role will be in the postseason is not clear.
So far this season he has featured in 56 games, averaging 9.6 minutes per appearance. However, since the start of February the Australian’s role has increased. He has averaged 10+ minutes per game in each month, while in turn; his scoring and rebounding stats have also increased. (See Maker’s full stats here).
As the playoffs have grown closer, Maker’s output has grown.
Maker fans will now look to Kidd to see what he decides to with the 7-footer. The rookie’s minutes haven’t all come in “garbage time”, as he's been featured as a starter in well over half the games he has played this season.
Matchups could play a key role in deciding just how much of the court Maker sees in the playoffs.
The Bucks are the sixth seed in the eastern conference, and will face Toronto in the first round. In the Bucks' last matchup against the Raptors, Maker started, but only played around nine minutes. Most of Toronto’s frontcourt players are suitable matchups for the Australian. Serge Ibaka is an experienced forward, but prefers to play around the perimeter on offence, eschewing plays with his back to the basket. This will suit Maker and his current defensive skillset.
Milwaukee head coach Jason Kidd's hesitance might come if/when the rookie is forced to defend Jonas Valanciunas. The Raptors centre is an effective back-to-the-basket player, and is likely to be too strong for Maker in the low block.
Other potential matchups include Jakob Poeltl, and Patrick Patterson, expect coach Kidd to be relatively comfortable with his rookie guarding either of these Raptors.
A plus for the Australian is his rim protection. This is something that other Bucks front-court players such as Greg Monroe, do not give.
Thon Maker’s offensive X-factor does leave him with the potential to play a key role in the playoffs. He has the ability to stretch the floor, finish strongly around the rim, and bring the crowd into the game. This gives Coach Kidd an option to roll the dice if the game requires it.
Star Giannis Antetokounmpo believes his Australian teammate will have a role to play in the postseason.
“He’s making the game easier for us and he’s going to be ready for the playoffs, too,” he said.
The Bucks may have a tough time making it past the first round, with Toronto winning their regular season series 3-1. However, the one win did come in their most recent match-up in March.
Whatever the case, let’s hope Thon Maker can see the court, and play a role for the Milwaukee Bucks in the playoffs.