Brook and Robin Lopez may have some new competition for the best brother duo in the NBA.
Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic reported Thursday that the Houston Rockets are signing Matur Maker, the younger brother of Detroit Pistons big man Thon Maker, to an Exhibit 10 contract.
The 21-year-old Matur, previously an undrafted free agent, spent the last two seasons playing professionally overseas in Switzerland and Slovenia. Like his older brother, Matur was a mixtape phenom in high school, but at 6-foot-10, is a bit shorter than the 7-foot-1 Thon.
While Matur’s averages of 12.9 points, 9.6 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks per game last season in Europe prove that he has potential, it remains to be seen if he can get up like his brother does.
Thon Maker made a stellar block on Monday night but paid the price.
Maker met a driving Bobby Portis in front of the rim and rejected the dunk attempt in a sweet block:
— NBA (@NBA) February 12, 2019
Portis’ left hand seemed to smack Maker in the face, causing bleeding to his mouth. The Detroit Pistons big man showed the bloody mouth on the sidelines:
Thon Maker auditioning for a spot on the Red Wings tonight. pic.twitter.com/t2fKVSdhSM
— Brady Fredericksen (@Brady_Fred) February 12, 2019
Maker had just checked into the game and only played a minute when that happened. This is only his second game with Detroit since being acquired in a trade with Milwaukee.
- Thon Maker
Milwaukee Bucks big man Thon Maker reportedly wants out.
Maker’s representative has asked the Bucks for a trade, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, with the 21-year-old seeing his playing time shrink under new coach Mike Budenholzer.
While the Bucks are under no obligation to deal Maker, general manager Jon Horst has apparently had discussions with Maker’s agent about trades that could be beneficial for both team and player, so the organization is at least willing to entertain the idea.
Now in this third NBA season, Maker is averaging just 11.7 minutes per game, down from 16.7 per game last season. He could be in line for a rookie extension this offseason.
A former 10th overall pick, Maker still has some admirers around the league, and one of his teammates thinks he can be a difference-maker. If the Bucks trade him, expect them to be able to find some suitors.
- Thon Maker
Though he had the winning shot in Sunday’s Game 4 against Boston, Giannis Antetokounmpo chose to share the credit with his teammates afterwards.
Following the thrilling 104-102 victory over the Celtics to even their first-round playoff matchup at 2 games apiece, the Milwaukee Bucks star shouted out Thon Maker as the reason the series changed, per Jovan Buha of ESPN.
Giannis on Thon Maker’s impact: “He’s the reason this series changed.”
— Jovan Buha (@jovanbuha) April 22, 2018
Maker, the 21-year-old big man, had eight points and five blocks in Sunday’s win, proving to be a game-changer on both ends with his length and spacing ability. He also picked up 14 points and another five blocks in Milwaukee’s victory in Game 3 on Friday.
The Bucks have now climbed out of a 2-0 hole to tie the series, and Maker definitely deserves a lot of credit, especially since a back injury has sidelined starting center John Henson for the last two games. Maybe the prediction that one retired NBA legend made about Maker isn’t so outlandish after all.
Kevin Garnett once famously declared, “Anything is possible.” Apparently that includes Milwaukee Bucks big man Thon Maker winning the MVP award.
In an interview with Jonathan Abrams of Bleacher Report that ran Monday, the retired 15-time All-Star, spoke glowingly of Maker and his potential. Keep in mind that Garnett has recently been attending Bucks practices to work with Milwaukee players.
“Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself,” said Garnett. “He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools. He has touch, he has agility, he has really good feet. He has a really good shot from three-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.
“Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day,” he added. “Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.”
Maker is still a raw 20-year-old averaging just 4.5 points and 3.3 rebounds per game in his second season. But as Garnett, who loves bold takes, hinted at, he has all the physical gifts to play at an elite level, so the upside is at least there.
One of the basic truths of the human experience is the charming mystique of the unknown. Sometimes, life is just more fun when we don’t quite know what to expect, what’s to come, or even what the heck is going on. It’s why we
crave travel, why we seek exposure to different cultures, why we thirst for exciting new experiences like skydiving, or horseback riding, or petty theft (OK, maybe strike that last one). It’s why the JFK assassination is so fascinating because we still don’t know what exactly transpired in Dealey Plaza that day some five-plus decades later. It’s why Keyser Söze is one of the greatest villains in the history of cinema. It’s why the anticipation of the new Frank Ocean album is still so high, even if we’re all growing increasingly worried that the dang thing might never actually come out. And it’s why social media is so much more fun when LeBron James (obligatory edit in light of recent events: three-time NBA champion and premier basketball overlord LeBron James) is subtweeting the life out of some poor unidentified soul.
The same goes for the NBA Draft. It’s especially so in a year like this one with so many supremely skilled prospects having so many unresolved issues hiding as skeletons in their closets. Sure, most of the top-tier guys seem like fairly certain commodities. We know that Ben Simmons is a potentially transcendent athlete/playmaker with a moldy jumper, while Brandon Ingram is a scarecrow who does a little bit of everything but might just blow over in a strong gust of wind. Meanwhile, Kris Dunn was probably genetically engineered in a point guard factory, whereas Jaylen Brown, Buddy Hield, and Jamal Murray have all become synonymous in the English language with the phrase “get buckets.” But for some guys, there’s a bit more nuance to it than that. I’m talking about the players who could get a GM fired for drafting them as quickly as they could get another GM fired for passing on them. These are the talents who exemplify Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates. The ones who are akin to drawing a Chance card in Monopoly. The dudes who are out to singlehandedly prove (or disprove) that hopping into the high-risk, high-reward boxcar is not a zero-sum game. They may not necessarily be the players we need, but they’re definitely the players we deserve.
Without further ado, here are the five biggest wild cards of the 2016 NBA Draft.
Denzel Valentine, SG/SF, Michigan State
Ahem…[Dramatic voice] “What if I told you that Ben Simmons’ game existed in a body with Brandon Roy’s knees? A riveting tale of risk, reward, and Tom Izzo’s tears. Presenting the latest installment in ESPN’s 30 For 30 series: The Curious Case of Denzel Valentine.”
And what a curious case it is, indeed.
Denzel Valentine won almost every major accolade imaginable in his senior year at Michigan State in 2015-16 and cemented his status as a do-it-all swingman/nightly triple-double threat. But a troublesome report recently surfaced that Valentine may be suffering from cartilage damage in both of his knees. By now, NBA teams have seen enough Greg Oden and Joel Embiid-esque spook stories that they are pretty much conditioned to recoil in horror at the sheer sight of such a report. But the payoff may simply be too great to allow Valentine to slip very far.
The 2015-16 AP Player of the Year provides an unusual and unique blend of playmaking, long-range sniping, and leadership for a wing player. He also attacks the boards with purpose, often showcasing a flair for pulling down contested rebounds and has a condor-like wingspan that makes him a handful on both ends. While his athleticism relative to other Spartan products may be a tad closer to Zach Randolph than to Jason Richardson, and his underwhelming foot speed/defensive smarts undermine his value in a league that demands their wings to be of the 3-and-D variety, Valentine is simply too talented and too versatile to not go in the top-20, even despite less-than-favorable medical circumstances.
As a four-year senior, Valentine may not be the seductive reservoir of untapped potential many of these other guys are. But as a mature, NBA-ready talent with a strong work ethic and a valuable skillset, the 22-year-old has what it takes to thrive in the league for many years to come. Now the only thing left to do is take bets on which team will be the one petitioning to move Valentine’s Day from February 14 to June 23.
Thon Maker, PF/C, Australia