Thon Maker speaks on being drafted in the lottery, what he can bring to the Bucks and more
Years ago, Thon Maker received some hefty praise from an NBA legend.
“I met Bill Walton, and he said, no matter where you are in the world, the NBA will find you,” Maker said.
Walton was right.
In what was the shock of the draft, the Milwaukee Bucks selected Maker with their 10th overall pick, making the Australian's NBA dream become a reality.
Leading into the draft, Maker was the international man of mystery. Choosing to bypass college, Maker declared for the NBA Draft and worked out for numerous teams, hoping to increase his draft stock, but even he didn’t expect the Bucks to call his name in the lottery.
“I think it did,” Maker said, when asked if he was surprised about being chosen so early. “At the same time, I was comfortable after I had my workout with Milwaukee. I was very confident, and I was just praying that was it.
“After the workout, I spent dinner and lunch with the front office and the coaching staff, and I just felt really confident and comfortable with them.
“I think I surprised myself with that one.”
Despite the initial shock, Maker is eager to get going with the Bucks, and is ecstatic his NBA dream has finally been realised.
“I’m very excited right now,” Maker said. “I can’t wait to fly into Milwaukee and get in the gym, get better and get ready. I just can’t wait, I’m so excited right now.”
The decision to declare for the draft caught many off guard, but Maker always believed he was ready to play the game at the highest level.
“I just had to look at myself, how ready I was, or what can I provide to the team right away, and what can I provide to the team long-term also, and how am I able to push those things to better myself,” Maker said, when asked if being selected 10th vindicated his decision to enter the draft.
“Looking at that, I saw the opportunity, I had to take it right away. I’m glad I did, but it also put more pressure on me to keep on working and get better in a short time period, so when teams got a chance to look at me, they just say, right, okay, he can do that, we didn’t know he could do that.
“Through these workouts, teams were able to see me against the guys that are coming out of college and they were like, wow. He is more than what they say he is.
“It was really a pressure for me, and I love pressure, so it worked out.”
Many believe that Maker’s game remains very raw. He has the traits to bring immediate energy to the court, but Maker has yet to develop a jump shot and has a fairly low basketball IQ at this stage. He is confident that he can make an impact from day one with the Bucks though.
“I feel like I can bring a lot to the team,” Maker said, when asked about how he feels he can influence the game as a rookie. “My biggest thing is just being able to play hard. I’m always going to have that. No matter what situation I’m in, I’m always going to provide that, offensively and defensively, I’m always going to play hard.
“If my shot's not falling, I’m always going to play hard defensively and find a way to be impactful.
“Whether it’s playing a certain position that isn’t my position, I’ll find a way to enjoy that position.
“Bringing a lot of length, leadership, communication, that’s all apart of my game, so I’m going to be comfortable doing that.”
Unlike most top prospects, Maker wasn’t invited into the draft’s green room, as his draft stock was up in the air until minutes before it began. Thus, Maker had to make the long walk from the stands of the Barclays Center to receive his Bucks draft cap and congratulations from NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but it was still a moment he’ll never forget.
“I was lost for words,” Maker said, when asked about hearing Silver call his name. “I was being rushed, so I had to find a way to speed it up but I just wanted to thank my family and my coach.”
While he has yet to show he has an adequate offensive game in the post, Maker identified a superb role model to aspire to if he wants to improve his offensive output.
“I’m a big fan of Hakeem [Olajuwon] because of his footwork,” Maker said, when asked if he sees himself developing into a finesse big-man, a physically imposing big-man or an outside shooting one. “I love his footwork, and I’ve been studying some of that and it’s great, it’s worked out, and it helped get me here.
“Teams have seen that, they’ve noticed it, and they’re surprised that I’m able to do a few things that he [Olajuwon] does also.
“I think five years from now, it’s going to be a great situation for me, because there is going to be more of Hakeem in my game and a little bit of today’s version of being able to shoot. You have to have it if you want to be able to survive in this modern version [of the NBA].”
Maker will be joining a Milwaukee team that is full of youthful exuberance, which includes Giannis Antetokounmpo, John Henson, Jabari Parker, Khris Middleton and Michael Carter-Williams. That group represents one of the longest teams in the league, and Maker expects to provide more of the same.
“Just extra more length,” Maker said, when asked what he can add to the Bucks already lengthy unit. “With those players, they can play any position, so the other teams can’t afford to have guys who can’t guard those type of players at anytime on defence.
“With me, I can bring the same length, stretch it out a little bit more also, and I also bring the competitiveness that’s going to help me and the players to get better.”
Jason Kidd leads Milwaukee, and Maker is looking forward to meeting and getting to know his new coach.
“I expect him to expect a lot out of me,” Maker said, when asked about what he foresees from Kidd this season. “I have to find a way to prove myself. He has already made that clear when I visited. I said hello to him and he told me what type of players they’re looking for."
He would go on to explain how the Bucks' coaching staff outlined their plans to look for players that are competitors and can be impactful on the game.
“I am always working towards that,” Maker said.
The deficiencies in Maker’s game aren’t lost on him, but he believes he can correct them, no matter how long it takes.
“Strength, for me, I think it’s going to take time,” Maker said. “I am strong, I know that, I believe that, and I’ve seen how strong I am. As a player, you can never get satisfied; you always want to get stronger, so you’re just unstoppable. I’m never going to get satisfied, so I definitely want to get stronger.”
Thank you to Cisco TelePresence and the NBA for facilitating incredible access during the NBA Draft 2016.