Thon Maker has been on the radar of NBA scouts and recruitniks for years. The first time I saw him play was at an EYBL event in Hampton, Virginia in 2013. He became an internet sensation in 2014 when a gaggle of uninformed bloggers decided that he was the next Kevin Durant based off of a mixtape. He transferred to a high school in Canada for 2015 and, after convincing the NBA that he had already graduated and spent last season in a post-graduate year, was allowed to enter the NBA Draft.
We know all that about him.
But that’s just about all we know.
A former top recruit in the class of 2016, Maker is one of this draft’s biggest gambles. He’s a 7-foot-1 forward that has some perimeter skill, can hit threes and can blocks shots. When he’s playing well, it’s not hard to see something between a Kevin Garnett and Chris Bosh. But he hasn’t been overly impressive all that often, he was worked over at a Hoop Summit event he attended and his lack of college playing experience means that NBA teams really have nothing to base a scouting report on.
Oh, and he may or may not be five years older than he says:
Several teams have entirely ruled Thon Maker out of the first round due to his age. Multiple sources believe Maker to be 21-23, not 19.— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2016
Now, there’s a lot to dig through here.
For starters, if Maker truly is 24 years old, that’s obviously the kind of thing that would torpedo his draft stock. You’re not projecting what a kid could be in that circumstance. You’re drafting a finished product, and he’s not a good enough product to be an NBA player right now.
This isn’t the first time that there have been rumors about Maker’s age, either. He’s from Sudan, and there are always questions about the accuracy of a birth certificate from that area of the world. Beyond the simple fact that record-keeping and governmental infrastructure is not the same as it is here, there’s a pretty significant incentive to forge documents. Raw 7-footers have potential, and that potential gives them monetary value. If knocking five years off of a player’s age turns him from a potential D-League talent into a lottery pick, there are a lot of people -- including the family themselves -- that stand to profit.
But the other side of this is that any rumors or sources that make noise on draft day are doing so because they want the information they’re sharing out there for a reason. There’s an agenda behind the scoop, which gives us reason to question the accuracy of the info being shared.
So who knows what’s true and what isn’t true here.
It’s a convoluted situation involving a good kid surrounded by some unseemly characters, but there’s an easier answer here than you think: If Maker can play, if he’s a “pro”, he’ll find his way onto a roster, whether it’s via the draft or free agency. If he’s not, he won’t.