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Is Thon Maker Worth the #1 Pick in the 2016 NBA Draft?


It was announced today that 5* recruit Thon Maker is able to declare for the draft despite not spending a year overseas (like Brandon Jennings) or play NCAA ball as a perennial “one-and-done.”

He was ruled eligible because the NBA requires that a player be 19 years of age, one year removed from high school (w/diploma), all of which he checks off. He’d be the 1st HS player to be draft-eligible since 2005.

I’d like to open the floodgates and ask is he worth the #1 pick? Well, he’s #20 on Chad Ford’s Big Board (he’s kind of a fraud, but whatever), and Maker has a 9’3” standing reach!… Yah that’s not a typo…

Maker may not be high on boards right this moment but he could easily enter the conversation after the NBA combine and workouts where coaches can test his skills. Imagine the decision a top three would have to make between Simmons/Ingram/Maker?

Three Reasons I Believe He’ll Shoot up Boards!

  1. The Kristaps Porzingus Factor

Porzingus started his NBA career with a bang, his hot start got him on the cover of Dime Magazine at one point. Maker has a lot of Porzingus type qualities, one of them is the sheer size, and explosion. Both those qualities are must-haves for the stretch four in the ever-changing landscape of how athleticism has dominated the NBA.

Kristaps was booed by Knicks (particularly the NY/CT Dukie Fans because they wanted Winslow or Okafor), but proved those fans that they were judgmental and doubted Phil Jackson there.

Maker is listed at 7’1 218 lbs, and Dragan Bender of Croatia (another International prospect in this draft) will need to bulk up a bit to avoid being bodied in the NBA but the words “potential,” “upside,” and “freak” are often overused but I can assure you they’re merited for Maker.

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  1. Ben Simmons and Brandon Ingram Have Some Questions About Them

Ben Simmons was kind of the next “Chosen One” heading into the season and somehow his attitude has grown to become an issue for some NBA fans, particularly Lakers fans.

I even heard one Celtics fan say, “I swear Simmons is just a bigger Evan Turner, definitely not a guy you take #1.”

That’s tomfoolery, no disrespect to Evan Turner, but Simmons is much more explosive. I do have worries about Simmons being able to hit a consistent jump shot but he’s nineteen years old, how can he be a finished product?

As for Ingram, there are other factors. One has to bring the “Duke Curse” into the discussion, not being a Duke hater, just look at the history. Irving hasn’t played over 70 games in a season in 5 years. Grant Hill and other former Duke stars have been haunted in the NBA.

I also look at Ingram and I know he’s far from the defender Justise Winslow was and will be in the NBA, I just see another Rudy Gay. Gay, a very talented player, just isn’t an alpha player in a league that requires one (or three…) to win a championship.

On Ingram, I have him as the #5 prospect, I’m not hyping him like others have, are, or will be. I’d take Buddy Hield, Kris Dunn, Maker, and Simmons over Ingram.

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  1. Look Who Could Be Drafting in The Top Three

Ok, let’s subtract Philadelphia from this conversation entirely, I’m going to mention the Lakers, Suns, and Celtics (Brooklyn pick) as possible teams who would have a chance to draft Maker.

All three teams could use a stretch 4 (or in the Lakers case they could develop Maker as a C if they please). The Celtics may become a contender and decide to trade the pick and this maximizes the value of this pick with the two swingmen (Simmons and Ingram) on the board atop the draft. Otherwise he’s easily a player who can step in for RFA Jared Sullinger, C Tyler Zeller, and Amir Johnson if they leave or get traded.

The Suns have Mason Plumlee, Alex Len, and Tyson Chandler but I do believe Chandler could be out of there and that Maker can slide into the PF spot and may contribute from the 1st game of the season. Along with guards Eric Bledsoe, Devin Booker, and Brandon Knight, they might make a jump offensively in the coming years.

The Lakers as I mentioned could develop him as a 5. But Julius Randle did average double-digit rebounds this season (quite a feat), so this could cover his flaws as a true big man. To an extent Philadelphia made it work with Noel and Okafor because Okafor is soft but offensively brilliant, and Noel is a banger but lacks true touch in the post.

Also remember even with Kobe Bryant gone, they still have D’Angelo Russell and Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt with Randle at the 4 (currently).

Three of the top four teams in the draft lottery are likely in the market for a big man and Maker fits the bill as an athletic man with lots of size. Physical gifts like this don’t just come every year.

 

Final Verdict:

I’m not going to say Maker is better than Simmons or Ingram. I’m not sure myself if Maker can climb the board because in the NBA it’s usually set in stone who the top draft picks are for the most part. Maker could easily jump into the top 5 of the draft with Simmons, Ingram, Dunn, and Bender.

I personally can’t see the Celtics rooting against his draft stock rising because it ultimately gives Danny Ainge his best bargaining chip to bring in a marquee player to help his #5 seeded Celtics jump into the title contention once again.

As for the Lakers, I think it would be hard for them to pass on Maker if they have a top three (they don’t have a 1st rounder otherwise). Maker, Clarkson, Russell, and Randle could be a core for them going forward barring a dumb and ill-advised Russell trade.

Let’s also face it for the Lakers, they just lost Kobe Bryant, and the Rams just traded up for the #1 pick in the NFL Draft, the Lakers need to make a splash and Thon Maker might just strike a resemblance to another athletic giant in Lamar Odom or Kevin Garnett… Yah, Thon can possibly be that guy.









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Robert D. Cobb
Founder, Publisher and CEO of INSCMagazine. Works have appeared and featured in places such as Forbes, Huffington Post, ESPN and NBC Sports to name a few. Follow me on Twitter at @RobCobb_INSC, email me at [email protected]