Australian basketball sensation Thon Maker shocked everyone last week by announcing that he intends to declare for the 2016 NBA draft.
His eligibility for this year’s draft is currently up in the air, but as he graduated high school in 2015 it seems there shouldn’t be an issue with him bypassing college and turning pro straight away.
However the real question this decision raises is this – will Maker going straight into the NBA be a good career move?
From a financial point of view it makes a whole lot of sense for Maker, as whether he’s taken as a high pick after going to college or he goes as a lower pick now, he’ll be making roughly the same salary either way.
Starting to play basketball professionally as soon as possible seems like a no brainer if he has no interest in pursuing higher education, as we’ve seen countless examples of talented basketball players getting to college and dominating on the court but questioned by scouts over their attitude towards their studies that they just don’t care about.
The biggest concern about Maker entering the draft this year is that it could seriously affect his development as a basketball player and his chances of going on to have a successful career.
You only have to look at fellow Australian Dante Exum’s rookie season in the NBA to see the trouble that skipping a stint in college can create.
Exum looked overwhelmed most of the time and struggled to contribute meaningfully, as shown by the very mediocre stats he put up for being a top five pick who played all 82 games of the regular season.
He looked like a kid among men, even when going against fellow rookies from his own draft class.
Being a kid among men when you’re a guard like Exum can be tough, but being a kid among men when you’re centre/power forward like Maker causes a multitude of problems, most important of which is almost any other tall player in the league will eat him alive physically.
Maker stands at seven-feet tall but is listed at only 219 pounds.
Exum also has the fact he was a highly sought after recruit and being a top five draft pick in his favour, meaning the Utah Jazz are going to be pumping an immense amount of time and resources into him.
Reports currently have Maker being drafted from anywhere between the late-20s or the high-40s.
Most players taken outside of the top 20 end up washing out of the league soon after they’re taken and this is even more true for those taken outside of the first round.
If Maker does pass on spending a year or two in college he’ll also be missing crucial experience and development from some of the best teachers in the game.
Maker has said he was looking at Arizona State, Notre Dame and Kansas when thinking about attending college. All three of these colleges would develop his talents and make him so much more ready for life in the NBA.
Just the idea of Maker being taken under Kansas’s head coach Bill Self and receiving his tutelage for a year has basketball fans salivating.
Self has seen players such as Andrew Wiggins, Markieff Morris and Marcus Morris develop in his system and then go onto thrive in the NBA, so seeing Maker do the same thing would be exciting.
This would also allow Maker to showcase his talents on a big stage for a college program that has had a history of success, which could lead to his draft stock flying through the roof.
The most concerning thing about Maker running straight for the NBA draft is that it looks like he may be sent straight to the NBA’s D-League, which is not a good sign.
Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Monday that if he is allowed to declare for the draft, no matter where Maker is taken he’ll be most likely spending the next couple of years playing in the NBA’s second-tier league as the majority of NBA executives feel like he has been regressing when watching him recently.
If this is true, Maker could see his career disappear in the blink of an eye as the majority of prospects who are sent to the D-League for long periods rarely ever find their footing in the NBA.
The sad truth is we could be reading that Maker has washed out of the NBA without ever playing a minute in a couple of years time
If he’s going to be sitting in the D-League for up to two years upon being drafted, it would be a much smarter use of his time to go to college and play against a far higher talent level.
Maker has all of the tools to succeed in this era of the NBA; he’s a seven-footer who can defend while also having a great shooting stroke for someone his size.
With all of the potential he has it would be incredibly disappointing to not see him capitalise on it.
If the NBA does rule that Thon Maker is ineligible, it could be the best thing that ever happens to his career.