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:
The only positives any writer can come up with are name jokes. Jason Kidd has burned this team’s future and he smolders on.
— The Real Sylvan Z (@FunkLab3000) June 24, 2016
This Bucks draft was bad. Worse that the talent level of the class.
— Drew Phone, Who Dis? (@thegnc) June 24, 2016
The Bucks probably made the worst pick in the draft not saying he’s a bad player but at no. 10?!! Really??!!
— Rico Swave (@GoldenStroke4) June 24, 2016
Analysts and fans have a few main objections:
- Milwaukee could have selected Maker later and didn’t get appropriate value at 10
- Maker is older than 19
- 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.