Sunday, May 1, 2016

In the Spotlight: Thon Maker

Thon Maker
7’1, 225 lbs
Class: High School 5th year Senior 
Position: Power Forward / Center
School: Athlete Institute Basketball Academy
Wingspan: 7’4
Reach: 9’3
Age: 19.3 (Born: February, 25th 1997)


  • Good size and versatility for an NBA 4/5 - at 7’1 – with 9’3 reach 
  • Strong focus throughout game… Serious demeanor. Competes hard regardless of game (seen in AAU, All-Star game, HS game) … Gives up his body, dives on floor 
  • Appears coachable - multiple possessions communicated with coaches and always comes across attentive and receptive 
  • Upside – Good combination of raw offensive skills, nimbleness, and athleticism combined with a high energy level for a 7-foot center. 
  • Very active offensively – light on his feet. He has a quick second jump. Can finish above the rim, off penetration, or on break
  • Runs the floor well for a 5… looks to beat opposing bigs down court, for easy buckets. 
  • Shooting Potential – While lacking any real consistency, he does display range that extends out to 3… Able to hit off the catch and shoot when given room, and has ability to transition into spot shooter moving off the pick-n-roll. Shown glimpses of hitting off the bounce, even a step back jumper, but it seldom comes within a good offensive possession.
  • Can handle the ball well for someone his size… although he’s rarely going North / South, with all his over dribbling.
  • Defensive Potential
      • Sees the ball and does a good job quickly rotating to come over from weak side… covers good ground defensively… can contest at rim (good timing), but not a true rim protector 
      • Pick n Roll D – Hedges well and recovers, can switch and contain, or use length to trap

  • No real upper or lower body strength… lacks a real base to hold ground defensively, or solidify position on offense. Also, struggles to play through contact. Body seems naturally lanky, so I imagine he will struggle to put on muscle mass 
  • When creating offense, it usually results in low percentage looks. He struggles to get separation from defender, or clean look within the ½ court offense, unless it comes off penetration. 
      • Lacking any true back to the basket game… relies on - righty jump hook. Often times, when playing in post, he ends up off balanced or fading from the hoop as a result of defender using strength to disrupt his flow… he struggles to maintain his foot work within the paint… He needs to develop more polish offensively, resulting in higher percentage offense
  • Shooting mechanics need continued development and refinement. He gets good extension, maintains decent balance, but one leg is typically in front of the other and his release is still too slow, as he goes through his shooting routine. 
  • Average explosion despite being a pretty good athlete 
  • Poor rebounder for size, as result of relying on athleticism, lacking strength, not sealing opposition (does go after the ball)
  • Tough to play as 5 in a small lineup… not enough of a presence as last line of defense. Needs another bigger body in paint, protecting basket, working on glass.
  • Never really consistently dominated weak competition (when witnessed in HS and AAU game against below average opposition) – and he’s 19, so he’s typically been matched up against younger players.


Maker’s not someone who’s going to step in and provide meaningful minutes. In fact, his development may extend for multiple years and take him straight to the developmental league, before ever seeing the floor.

Maker is the wireframe of a guy who can become an effective NBA player. The size, the skill level, the athleticism, the coordination, the motor, the willingness to learn, the belief in himself, all at 7’1 – he’s got a little bit of it all… and while he doesn’t blow you away in any one area, he does partially check many boxes. Which is a good and bad thing.

On one hand, he’s well rounded. And his upside is higher than similar draft prospects (i.e. Cheick Diallo). But on the other hand, there’s no one area Maker shows so much potential (i.e. rim protector), that you can see him contributing in a short time horizon. Whereas more singularly focused players, bring a skill and as they evolve that skill, they can earn minutes in the rotation. With Maker, it’s more of a boom or bust scenario.

So where do you play Thon?

Center - While on paper, the idea of using Thon to go small and spread the court would be compelling, he’s a long way from being able to play the 5, in a smaller lineup. He’s not nearly a good enough rebounder, he’d struggle as the last line of defense protecting the basket, and because he lacks any real strength, it would be a real up hill battle to guard bigger 5’s.

Power Forward – Given where he’s at in his offensive development, Maker is still not someone who’s going to expose a smaller 4. In fact, the opposition can guard him with a smaller 4 and not worry that despite his 7’1 size, he’s going to take advantage, because he doesn’t play to his size yet. And on the flip side, Maker guarding a smaller 4, will present more challenges, than you gain.

Until his body and game matures, he’s going to need to be complimented with a bigger 4 or 5, who take on the more physical matchup.

The area I think Maker can evolve at a quicker pace is as a shooter. Despite needing to improve his shooting mechanics and speed up his release, he’s shown initial flashes, from the perimeter. Improving as a shooter, and then being able to play the pick and roll (with improved screening), and pull his defender out of the paint, brings a needed dimension to Maker’s game.

All in all, Maker is intriguing, despite the amount of development needed. He’s very talented and is worth evaluating closely in Pre-Draft workouts, which should greatly impact his draft stock. I’d love to see him matched up with a number of prospects (Stephen Zimmerman, Cheick Diallo, Skal Labissiere), who have similar skill sets and many of whom, are similar in age. As value goes, if Maker starts to slide down in the first round, he warrants consideration, if you are able to swing big.

In the Spotlight: Jaylen Brown

Jaylen Brown 
6’7, 225 lbs 
Class: Freshman 
Position: Small Forward 
College: California 
Wingspan: 7’1 
Reach: 8’9 
Age: 19.4 (Born: October 24th, 1996) 


  • Good size, strength and frame - 6’7, 225 lbs - for NBA 3 
  • Incredibly athletic, good acceleration, explosiveness, quick first step 
  • Good individual offensive skills in one-on-one; can take off the bounce and get to the basket, above average pull up game off the bounce, does a nice job changing directions, will be even more dangerous when defenses can’t give as much room and are forced to close out quicker… and while he doesn’t possess a back to the basket game at this point, he has the components to develop one 
  • NBA ready. With no big holes in his game and his offensive arsenal and defensive versatility, he should be able to make a smooth transition to the next level 
  • When on the attack, Brown can be dominant and tough to matchup against 
  • Plays well in transition… can fill the wing and finish at the rim or lead the break … shows good body control when finishing on break 
  • Seems to be a good kid, shows smarts on and off court… articulate… well spoken. Picks opposing guys up on the court 
  • Defensively, he’s got the tools. Whether it’s guarding quicker, more explosive 2’s, or matching up with 3’s that are able to play with their back to the basket, Brown can take on the assignment 
      • Quick feet, good length, strong frame, stout base, seems to have an understanding of when to help and recover, good instincts, gets in lanes to create turnovers 


  • Must develop more consistency from the outside and develop quicker release… more of a streak shooter (if that) at this stage 
          2016 Shooting Percentages:
               FG : 43% 
               FT: 65% 
               3 Point: 29%
  • Can improve timing of when to pick his spots, to take higher percentage shots 
  • Does he have the killer instinct? Never shows much emotion. Lacks consistency showing up during stretches of games… and typically on the biggest stage. Often times, during big moments, he’s left with a stoic look on his face, and fails to rise with the pressure 
  • Needs to be more confident and at times make quicker decisions, so his offense isn’t entirely on him to create… when a pass comes off penetration, be ready to shoot, not first get settled and size up the defense. 
  • Needs to continue to do damage within the flow of the offense, not just rely on his 1-on-1 skills when the offense breaks down 


Is there a prospect in this years draft class, with as much natural ability as Jaylen Brown? Maybe 1 or 2, but that’s it.

At first glance, he meets the eye test. Good size, length, strength for a 3. Add his incredible athleticism and individual offensive skills, with his elite ability to finish in transition and it’s hard not to fall in love with Brown. Finally, couple all of his physical gifts, and natural offensive talents, with his defensive potential and Brown has skills that can translate at the next level.

So why the hesitancy around Brown as a top prospect?

Unfortunately, there are times he seems to be out on the court, running through sets without the urgency of the moment. During these stretches, he doesn’t even look, or demand the ball.

A season ago, as a Senior in HS on the biggest stage, playing at the Dick’s High School Nationals (playoffs), with Brown’s Wheeler team matched up against a clearly more talented and deeper Huntington Prep team featuring all Division 1 prospects - Thomas Bryant, Miles Bridges, Curtis Jones, etc. I was expecting Brown to be overly aggressive, to try and over compensate for the talent differential between teams and really try to put his team on this back.

Instead, in a tight game in the 2nd half, it almost appeared like Brown understood how difficult a task it would be to carry his Wheeler team to victory…so he deferred to his teammates, at an alarming rate. There was never a moment he turned up the aggressiveness, and his team ultimately lost.

I bring this up, because there were numerous big games down the stretch, this past season at Cal, most noticeably the first round loss to Hawaii, in which Brown seemed to play his worst…or be a non-factor. For example:

March 18th – NCAA Tournament Loss to Hawaii:
   - Brown: FG: 1-6, FTA: 2, Pts: 4, Reb: 2, Ast: 0, TO: 7 in 17 minutes (FO)

March 11th – Pac-12 Tournament Loss to Utah
  - Brown: FG: 3-17, FTA: 8, Pts: 12, Reb: 5, Ast: 5, TO: 5

March 10th – Pac-12 Tournament Win against Oregon State
   - Brown: FG: 1-6, FTA: 7, Pts: 8, Reb: 2, Ast: 3, TO: 6

March 3rd – Big Game down the stretch against Arizona
  - Brown: FG: 2-9, FTA: 0, Pts: 5, Reb: 1, Ast: 1, TO: 2

There are certainly a number of things you can point to for his disappointing performances down the stretch – Cal point guard went down, not enough floor spacing on the perimeter to create lanes for Brown to penetrate, core of Brown and Rabb are freshman etc… And sure, they could’ve played a roll, but this repetitive flaw raises real concern.

And while there’s no debating he must have felt incredible frustration with his performances, he never really showed it on the court – which both points to a maturity, but I would’ve preferred to see some emotion, or some anger at what transpired.

Now anytime, we are talking about a guy with Brown’s talent level, you have to give serious consideration to acquiring him. And with only drafting the best player available in mind, if Brown were to fall to the tail end of the lottery, picks #10-13, he becomes a great value selection. More than likely Brown will be selected, picks #5-10.

*Cut from the mold of a Stanley Johnson or Joe Johnson, Brown is more naturally gifted at this point than either were at the end of their freshman seasons. But Brown is well behind Stanley in his competitiveness, or Joe’s shooting ability at that same stage.