Making the most of it: The curiosity that is Thon Maker

One is reminded of the aura that surrounded Dante Exum two years ago; Thon Maker looks set to be the next Australian man of mystery in this year’s NBA draft.

Being somewhat of a curiosity after forgoing college and declaring for the draft, team workouts have finally given league executives the opportunity to put Thon Maker in tangible situations and gauge how he performs. There’s now a body of work and data that can be used to assess how his tantalising talents can translate to the next level.

Reports are surfacing that Thon Maker will next work out with the Atlanta Hawks, who own the 21st pick in the draft. Following that, stops at Detroit Pistons (pick 18) and Indiana Pacers (pick 20) look to be scheduled.

On Friday, he worked out with the Utah Jazz, who own pick 12 in the upcoming Draft. Tom Jones reports that Maker impressed.

“I thought he played pretty well,” said Jazz VP of player personnel, Walt Perrin. “Considering he had a pro day yesterday, I was worried about him. But he was in good shape, he shot the ball well and he got through it. It was impressive that he was in shape. He’s gotten bigger and he’s figuring out how to play.”

Is Thon Maker worth a late lottery pick? It’s unlikely. The Jazz workout was more a sign of due diligence from the organisation, but the point is that Maker has slowly solidified his stock. He’s becoming a known entity instead of an idea.

Most draft boards project Maker as a late first round to early second round selection, but those figures are always fluid. One great workout can change perceptions entirely.

In an effort to improve his current draft stock, Maker worked out earlier this week in front of executives from 25 of the 30 NBA teams, with reports suggesting that he impressed and looks a likely first round pick. The workouts have finally allowed teams to assess the Aussie, after he became somewhat an internet curiosity since a mixtape of his talents was released online in 2014.

Maker himself is quick to hose down any hype, quick to distance himself from that infamous 2014 mixtape, and the types of tropes that come along with such public representations of all that is wrong with AAU culture.

By all accounts he’s a great kid with an excellent work ethic — a hard worker who spends countless hours in the gym, to hone in on the fundamentals of the game.

“I bet you those people who put them out haven’t sat through a whole game of mine and watched it. My defensive rotation, the way I communicate to my teammates, the way I pass the ball,” he told reporters at the Combine regarding the mixed tape. “They probably got the bad passes, the one-hand passes, not the fundamental, two-hand, jump-stop, they don’t get to see all that stuff. Some people use that to identify me, and I told the teams what it is.”

The spindly teenager evokes comparisons to Kevin Garnett due to his incredible mix of size, length, agility and all-round game.  He’s also scrawny, and league insiders openly question what position Maker plays at a professional level, and are sceptical over how his game translates to the NBA.

But that hasn’t stopped league-wide curiosity surrounding the 7-footer with the concoction of guard-like handles, shooting touch, crazy athleticism and competitiveness.

At the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, league execs were reportedly impressed by Maker’s physical measurements and disposition, potentially raising his stock. That intrigue is exacerbated by the fact that Maker skipped college altogether, forgoing the opportunity to test himself against humans of comparative stature, a move that may have concealed his weaknesses, and muddied perceptions.

It’s a double-edged sword that raises more questions than answers.

But equally, that move could pay off. The NBA draft is not an exact science, even for prospects for which there are copious amounts of data. There’s just not enough information to accurately project how Maker will fare as a pro.

By embracing his inner-man-of-mystery, and impressing during team workouts, Maker has only added further intrigue to his story. Ultimately, that play on curiosity could be the difference in whether or not he’s selected as a first rounder, and with it, a guaranteed contract.

Written by

Warren Yiu is a senior writer for The Pick and Roll. He writes feature articles that cover Aussie Hoops across both the NBA and the NBL. He's also working on a book. Follow him on Twitter: @WarrenYiu

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