Some people think the Thon Maker pick was bad

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about the Milwaukee Bucks drafting Thon Maker as I was Friday morning.

Andrew Sharp of Sports Illustrated had a very, very bad Bucks take:

As inexplicable as the Papagiannis pick was, the Thon Maker pick was worse. The Kings are always going to be the Kings as long as Vlade and Vivek are in charge, but the Bucks could actually be good. You can’t just throw away top–10 picks like they’re nothing.

There’s a way to see Maker as a case of the Bucks doubling down on the weirdness of their roster and putting together the most science–fiction lineup possible, and maybe that’s how it’ll play out, but I don’t see it. Maker should have been a second rounder, not a top 10 pick.

CBS Sports has a bit more justification for not liking Maker. This take is okay, but I disagree with it:

How does one rectify a team making your least favorite pick of the draft along with one of your favorites? Indeed, I don’t buy Maker this high at No. 10. He was dominated last year at Nike Hoop Summit for a week by No. 28 pick Skal Labissiere, no guarantee to carve out a role in the NBA himself. His hands aren’t great, his body isn’t strong enough, and his basketball IQ isn’t superb. What Maker needs is experience, and it’s hard to see how he’ll get it given that the Bucks have no D-League team and that there’s no way he will earn NBA minutes. Just not a fan of him or his game here, and wouldn’t have been a fan of his even in the top-20.

Yahoo talks reaching, but in a reasonable manner:

Grabbing Maker at No. 10 is an incredible reach, one that blew the viewers at home away while probably not surprising the rest of the league all that much. Secrets don’t stick at home with NBA front offices these days, and if the rest of the league knew Milwaukee fancied Maker but wanted to trade down (there were even rumors he could slip out of the first round heading into Thursday) potential trade partners probably played enough hardball to force MKE’s hand. The proof will be in the playing.

USA Today was a bit more kind, giving Milwaukee a B-:

To go along with the trend of young, lanky talent overflowing in Milwaukee, the Bucks took the 7-1, 215 pound Sudanese-Australian significantly earlier than expected. What he lacks in experience, he makes up for in size and athleticism. Maker is a big risk taken this early, but the Bucks (hello, Greek Freak) have shown they’re not scared of a project.

Some of the worst takes I’ve seen were Twitter takes:

Analysts and fans have a few main objections:

  1. Milwaukee could have selected Maker later and didn’t get appropriate value at 10
  2. Maker is older than 19
  3. He can’t help them win now

When the selection was announced, my first thought was, “This seems a little high for Thon Maker.” My second thought was, “Wow, he’s very tall and that one mixtape I watched seemed very promising.” That second thought carries more weight. The Bucks don’t want to be picking in the tenth spot every year and clearly they weren’t very excited about their options in it this year. They felt like they could hit a home run with this guy. I spent 15 minutes researching this draft over the course of the last year, but all of the draft analysis pieces I’ve read so far this weekend don’t really give me the vibes that anyone taken after Maker has a chance to be real special. So why not take him, even at ten? The whole draft after the top five is impossible to predict.

The players I kept seeing the Bucks most connected with were Wade Baldwin, Jakob Poeltl and Deyonta Davis. Poeltl was off the board when the Bucks draft, having gone ninth to the Raptors. But Baldwin fell to 17 and Davis fell to the second round. Whose to say Maker wouldn’t have gone at 11 or 12? Everyone thinks they know so much heading into the draft. There are too many mock drafts to count. Some sites do a full two months of draft coverage after their team is bounced in April. Words written by DraftExpress and Chad Ford are basically holy. Yet every year a couple guys fall or rise like crazy, proving how little information we’re working with.

Milwaukee taking a guy at ten that other people thought they could get at 30 doesn’t mean they could have gotten him at 30 and it doesn’t mean they failed to get value at their pick. The only way we know they didn’t get value at their pick is if Maker ends up a failure in the league and obviously the Bucks are betting that he won’t.

Fans want their team to be the smartest team, always one deal ahead of their competitors. Bloggers and Twitter Fans want their GM working the phone like Brad PItt in Moneyball, keeping one GM on hold, waiting to be swindled while he pulls the rug out from another GM. The GMs in that scenario are Ernie Grunfeld and Vlade Divac, by the way. It’s not enough to some people that a team draft one interesting guy. A team has to make a move that embarrasses its competitors and asserts dominance. Trading down for an extra pick is catnip for basketball fans. LOOK AT THE SAVVY! But what’s most important is that a team is right on whoever they draft, regardless of when they draft him.

But value isn’t the only conversation around Maker. His age is in question and he has the body of a lightweight vacuum cleaner.

A supposedly Australian guy on Twitter has been blowing people up the last few days with a yearbook photo of Maker and a story about a friend’s friend’s sister or something. He says Maker’s 22. The day of the draft rumors around his age were flying around on Twitter. He’s a Sudanese-Australian who lived in America and Canada. Maker’s background is literally all over the map. The Bucks are a smart group and I’m assuming they’ve done their due diligence on Thon Maker’s age. If they’re comfortable with him being 19, I’m fairly comfortable with him being 19. Publicly, they have to say he’s 19, otherwise the choice looks worse. But it’s hard to believe they actually thought he could be 22, be this raw of a player and still wanted to draft him. Milwaukee’s actions strongly indicate their research says he’s 19. Who am I to doubt them here?

The Bucks basically have unlimited resources at this point to gather information. This isn’t Larry Harris and Herb Kohl trying to figure out how to land Yi. Bill Freaking Clinton was almost brought in on a recruiting pitch to get Greg Monroe last summer. Don’t you think Marc Lasry and Wes Edens are going to find a way to help their basketball staff figure out a prospect’s age?

And yeah, he’s skinny and he’s going to take some time to develop. But the draft is completely for taking young guys who are going to take some time to develop. All of these guys are brand new to the league. Even the most seasoned college players have tons to learn about being NBA players. Some of the pick it up incredibly fast and are able to make an impact early on. Luc Mbah a Moute was an opening night starter after a strong college career. He was a great impact draft pick. He also never had a better season than his rookie season and would never be mentioned by anyone telling the story of the Bucks as a franchise.

Milwaukee was a bad shooting team last season, so people naturally started looking for shooters in this year’s draft. That’s a terrible way to manage a team. If any guy you pick really only has a 50/50 shot of being good, why would you narrow your focus to only guys that meet a certain skill? ALWAYS SWING FOR THE FENCES IN THE DRAFT. Potential over fit forever.

I’m all for criticizing teams. If Milwaukee would have passed on Giannis a few years ago, I can’t even imagine what my reaction would have been. Maybe you felt that strongly about Baldwin or Henry Ellenson. If that’s you, I’m sorry for you and also you should get new favorite prospects because those guys looked regular as hell to me. All of these guys did. Without a guy who seems to have something special going on, it almost doesn’t matter who the team picks. Who knows how good Thon Maker will be? Or Deyonta Davis. Or Baldwin. All we ever learn about the draft is that it’s impossible to predict. If we want to hand out a draft grade today, we should be handing it out to the 2013 draft. Milwaukee ended up with Giannis Antetokounmpo and Nate Wolters. That was a good draft. Next year we can look at 2014. These drafts take time to shake out, friend.

Put down your takes. Let go of your NBA draft angst. Summer is happening all around you. Head to the beach and start thinking about free agency. What’s done is done. We’ll talk about it in a few years.

Categories: Draft Talk

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22 Comments

  1. I remember when Giannis was drafted….I remember the sports talk radio stations in Wisco starting that night he was drafted and all the weeks to come till at least Packers training camp started to distract a little….Giannis was slammed and hated by callers…very rarely would someone call in and say give the kid a chance, he was picked apart left and right and now look…you think any of those knee-jerk callers would give him up now ??? No, not a chance.

  2. E. Pluribus Kohl

    Is the Excel thing (a.k.a. Jason Kidd has all the clients of Schwartz, himself included) a concern?

    • I’m getting over this, personally. I think it’s something to watch, but it probably is just familiarity. Will be interesting to see how the new assistant GM’s relationship with ASM impacts things as well.

  3. Excellent stuff.

    At the time, it fealt like a pretty insane reach. Then Dejounte Murray went 29th and Deyonta Davis fell out of the first round, two guys that were around the Bucks spot in plenty of mock drafts. Had the Bucks drafted one of those two, they would have been reaching by 20 ish spots anyways.

    The hot takes of throwing away a top 10 pick wouldn’t have happened if the Bucks took Davis. The idea of teams reaching based on these mock drafts is silly.

  4. Excellent article, well timed. I confess to being a draft freak. It doesn’t matter what sport. In the big picture General Managers know some, fans like me know less. But we want to educate ourselves about our favorite teams in hopes of improvement and so we read the pundits who know only slightly more than us. Then when the Bucks don’t take the favored savior du jour, we lose our minds. “Blake Martinez in the fourth? Ted Thompson could’ve gotten him in the fifth!” It’s good that Hammond had success with Giannus. People need to chill out and trust that our GM just might know more than Chad Ford, who keeps changing his mind about who is good as he hears updates from his sources. The draft is about hope, whereas the aftermath of a draft is about faith.

  5. “I spent 15 minutes researching this draft over the course of the last year”. Then stop writing about the draft. Stop pretending to know what you are talking about as site after site passes you by. You are an embarrassment and you should hand the keys to someone that knows what they are doing.

    • Says the guy who came to my website to read what I have to say. Nobody’s forcing you to come here and see what I have to say. You made that decision. You read through the piece. I can spend 15 minutes researching a draft and still have an educated and thoughtful reaction. That’s the point. The information that’s out there is so suspect and everyone’s takes are based on so little.

      But if you have an issue with what I’m doing, please, please, please never check out the site again.

  6. The point is, I as a fan can read everything I can get my hands on for two months prior to the draft and in the end I still can’t predict any more accurately than the casual fan. We can fools ourselves into thinking we know something about the draft and regurgitate information that we read on NBA DRAFT or Draftexpress, but there is so much misdirection given out by the teams (and agents) that we can’t hope to get a good handle on it. But we learn what we can and hope for a certain outcome, realizing that we don’t know the big picture. For example, I wanted Brogdon and Bolomboy in the 2nd. Not bad for an amateur. This is supposed to be fun, remember? As I said, excellent column.

  7. I’m a raptors fan but i have a soft spot for your bucks team. Personally i thought it was a bit high too generally all drafts are crap shoots. It doesn’t matter how good a player looks in college or high school or wherever, nobody knows how their game is gonna translate in the league. The new NBA can suit thon perfectly if he fulfills his potential. I admit, i saw him play live at canadian biosteel high school championship and he was completely crap. Player younger than him abused him but you can tell that he’s a player who has the tools and at least one nba skill (his shooting). In the right system surrounded by the right team, he can be real good player. The bucks have players like giannis, jabari and khris who teams will focus on so thon will probably have a bunch of clean looks in the corner to shoot. I think it’s a good gamble because he majority of the players picked after him are gambles too. I hope he works out just because of the uncalled for hate he’s receiving for being picked 10th. And lastly, he seems like a well spoken young man who has his head on straight. I like that in a player, he’s mature and that’s a sign that hopefully he’ll be able to work, adjust and adapt his game to succeed in the league.

  8. Great article. I think Thon could be good he just needs some time to get stronger and develop. If he develops he could be everything the Bucks need, shooting and defense. Plus he fits the Bucks style of being athletic and long. Once again great column.

  9. In any case, it’s good to see the buzz here at Bucksketball the last couple of days, with both new commenters and familiar regulars. The bottom line is it’s fun to talk about the Bucks, including special occasions such as the draft, and to get different perspectives. At this point — as indicated by Jeremy — nobody is really wrong and nobody is really right, and we can have enjoyable opinionating.
    I’m a bit puzzled as to why I like the pick of Thon in 2016 so much more than the pick of Giannisin 2013 (while noting right away that I’m a huge fan of Giannis now, and am glad that I was wrong about him then).
    Well, maybe it’s because it seems that Thon has been in the public spotlight for a couple of years, so that there is some basis for being either excited or disappointed about him as our draft pick at #10 overall. With Giannis, it seemed like there was so very little to go on as far as scouting, with perhaps only a small amount of grainy footage of him, so it seemed like more of a blind chance based on vague stories to go along with his personal stature.
    Also, my impression is that the Bucks have a lot more young talent right now than they did when Giannis was drafted, so I feel like we’re more in a position to take a risk. It seems relatively easy to find solid players to fit around the likes of Giannis, Khris, Jabari, John Henson, and MCW — compared to potentially finding a dynamic difference-maker in Thon who could be the piece that elevates the Bucks into elite status.
    Given Jeremy’s observation that there doesn’t appear to be a striking alternative that was drafted after Thon, then why not go for boom or bust. It seems that in today’s NBA draft, the choice is usually between 19-year-old phenoms who have a lot of promise but are still risky projects; or safer, older players who don’t have as much upside. It seems we got both in this draft, and I’m hopeful that our safer and more solid second-round pick from Virginia has more upside than is generally recognized.
    This should be an exciting season, and perhaps even better with a rejuvenated Jeremy and a good mix of old and new commenters. Maybe even summer league will be a fun ride.

  10. Nice article Jeremy. I find it odd that all of the ‘experts’ seemed to agree coming into this draft that it was not a strong draft, yet the 10th pick could be scrutinized with such certainty. In a weak draft, isn’t this what a team drafting after 5 should do? Swing for the fences? The Bucks’ immediate needs were not going to be met with the 10th pick in this draft. I also find it funny that in a couple years when some players from this draft class may prove the experts wrong, there will be no retracted statements from 2016 because the experts will be too busy grading a new class that hasn’t played yet.

  11. How can the Yahoo reporter knew the Bucks will pick Thon Maker 30 minutes before it happened? That is really bad draft management. I never heard any leak information from Packers draft ever. Nobody should know what you will pick before you call in the pick.

  12. Well first things first Jeremy…every player should’ve looked ‘regular as hell’ to u if you only spent 15 min researching the players in this draft, as u so eloquently noted in your rant…Thon Maker might end up being great, but not for a few years at least, and by then he could be 37 for all we know…too many questions for a #10 pick…
    One last thing, if u think Domantas Sabonis is going to be a regular as hell player, your an idiot…he’s gonna be a star, just ask OKC if u haven’t heard of him..they can fill u in

    • This is a fair point – Sabonis does seem quite good. I exaggerated my lack of research for comical effect and one guy I really did like was Sabonis. But it does seem like Maker has a higher upside than Sabonis, though a lower shot of hitting it.

    • You think any OKC pick will be a star player. Since 2010 to 2015, they drafted 11 players in first rounds. They got three good players out of those 11 ( Bledsoe, Jackson, and Adams) The rest of them either role players or out of NBA completely. You hit some and miss some. Sabonis has a chance to be good or bust as any other player. Calling people an idiot base on the OKC pick without any proof is ignorance and childish.

  13. Well, If Maker stinks up the Summer League the Bucks may have a lemon on their hands. Hammond seems to be leaving for other opportunities shortly- so he may have made the pick to stick it to the Bucks.

    However, that doesn’t seem likely. Hammond doesn’t seem to be that kind of guy.

    I saw the mix tape. Maker looked incredible. Like of mix of Young Garnett and even baby Shaq. How can someone look so good and have so many doubters? He was playing high school competition but I’ve seen Okafer and Parker on high school tapes and neither of them looked as good as Maker. It should be interesting.

  14. What people need to keep in mind is that almost the entire NBA Draft is based on potential. So many of the guys drafted are 18-19 yr olds with 1 year of college experience. A player reaches their peak within the ages of 24-30. That means these guys are 5+ years away from even the start of their peak years. So drafting young players who have flashed talent, but lack consistency, who possess athleticism and size, but need time to develop their games is the best strategy. Thon Maker definitely fits this mold. Even if we learn that he really is 22 yrs old he has time to develop. No one complained about drafting a 19 year old Jabari #2 overall only because they saw him play 30 some games at Duke. Thon is more unknown so people freak out. With the way the NBA game is played with the floor spacing his length and athleticism fit the leagues style. Lastly, this guy traveled from Sudan to Australia to the US and to Canada as a teenager and Hearing him speak post draft he showed a lot of poise and maturity. All that being said we Bucks fans know he probably will not play much the first half of this next season if at all the entire season. Remember Giannis’ barely got off the bench as a rookie and looked lost when he did. This team still needs time to grow and mature. Jabari, Khris and Giannis are fixtures but they are still VERY young and the Bucks need to add more around them. The best teams have roster consistency. Klay Thompson and Steph Curry look great now but they both struggled early in their careers and did not truly grow into the players they are now until GS added veterans (Bogut, Iguodola and Barbosa) around them.

    The Bucks’ messed up this point of adding the right veterans last year when they thought Dudley and Pachulia were expendable. This left them with OJ Mayo (not someone we should want young guys to emulate) and Greivis Vasquez (who was an utterly poor move) as the veterans that rarely played. They need to add the right veterans around these guys in this upcoming free agency period to form a solid team that can grow together for the next 3-4 years.

  15. Your points are all great, my thoughts exactly as a Bucks fan. The problem I have is that you say you studied the NBA draft for 15 minutes. I rely on this site and one other, because they are the only 2 sites on the interwebs, for my Bucks news. If all you have is 15 minutes to spend on the draft I might as well write my own blog, re-read m thoughts and gain the same insight