Thon Maker’s Development is Speeding Up

The Jabari Parker’s injury while tragic for the Milwaukee Bucks may prove beneficial in the long run for the development of Thon Maker. Many draft experts raised an eyebrow when it seemed like the Bucks reached too early picking Maker 10th in last year’s draft. The rail thin Maker is a new project for a team that was expected to take the leap to becoming a good team. Injuries have really hurt the Bucks’ chances of making that leap. First, it was Khris Middleton’s injury at training camp and just as he returned Parker’s ACL injury got in the way. The latest injury has opened the door for Maker to start and pushed his development into overdrive.

The hardest thing for NBA teams to replicate in practice is game speed reps, which makes it hard to develop young talent if they are not getting NBA minutes. This is why teams will send their young prospects to the D-League to get an opportunity to play in games. The Bucks will own their D-league affiliate next season so the team decided it was best to develop Maker in-house than send him to a D-league team not in their control.

As Howard Beck’s article on Thon Maker in Bleacher Report’s Magazine highlights, the Bucks are spending a lot of the time not just developing his on the court skills but working on his body as he needs to add some weight to his 215 pound 7’1” frame. As the article continues, Maker certainly has the drive to be great and his teammates have noticed the work he is putting in.

Before the Parker injury, Maker was behind Giannis Antetokounmpo, Parker, John Henson, and Mirza Teletovic in the depth chart. Most of his 7.1 minutes came in garbage time, while averaging 3.5 points a game which helped to get him acclimated to the NBA game. Extending those numbers to per 36 minutes and he’s estimated to average 17.7 points, 8.1 rebounds, and 1.8 blocks a game. Now he’s averaging 18.5 minutes a game and is productive for the Bucks. It has only been three games but he’s averaging 8.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in that time.

In the game against the Indiana Pacers he shot four for eight from the field including three for five from downtown. Maker set a screen for Michael Beasley and rolled to the open space for a two hand slam, then hit three threes off spotting up in the corner and hitting off pick-and-pop situations.

Defensively, Maker consistently puts in the effort. When the Los Angeles Lakers tried to post him up, he battled Ivica Zubac for position. He made it difficult for the pass to be entered into the post then forced Zubac out a few feet off the block and contested his jump hook, which was missed. Later in the game Maker switched onto Lou Williams in a pick-and-roll who blew right by him, but he didn’t quit and continued to chase Williams and forced him into a terrible miss. As he develops, he’ll be able to defend in the post and switch onto guards. This type of versatility in a big is the kind of thing that has teams drooling.

The Parker injury is a real setback for the Bucks aspirations this season but for their long term future this is the best opportunity to develop Maker. The Bucks have a history of developing talent with Antetokounmpo and Parker; Maker could be next. He has the drive to get better; he brings great energy on both ends of the floor, and is only going to get better as he continues to get stronger. The new minutes coming Maker’s way may speed up his development and the Bucks will benefit.

NBA Notes:

  • Jabari Parker Injury – This is the second time Jabari Parker has torn his ACL in the left knee and it’s heartbreaking, as he really has been coming on this year. The worst part was that he was up for an extension this year but now it might be best to wait and see how he comes back. Hopefully he comes back better than ever.
  • The Magic Johnson Promotional Tour – Magic has been all over the media lately and seems to be he is publicly campaigning for the power to make the final decisions for the Lakers. I can’t name a time when a front office executive openly campaigned in public for the position.
  • Trade Deadline Arms Race – In a few short days, six centers have been moved and teams are beginning to explore moves as the trade deadline comes up. The Cavs struck first by trading for Kyle Korver and now the Raptors have traded for Serge Ibaka. All eyes are on what the Celtics and Wizards might do if anything to keep up in the East Arms race.

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