The San Antonio Spurs have the 29th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, and while it’s hard to find an immediate impact player at that stage of the process, the Spurs have done very well for themselves in finding gems late in the draft. An intriguing prospect for them to look at this year is Thon Maker.
Maker is a 19 year old from South Sudan. He stands at 7’1 and is a rail-thin 216 pounds. Images of Manute Bol are instantly evoked when looking at the extremely lanky Maker, and the shared Sudanese heritage of the two giants contextualizes the adversity that Maker has faced in his young life.
His family had to flee to Uganda to escape civil war in their home country, and from there they were accepted by Australia as refugees. Maker started playing basketball after settling in Australia, and eventually immigrated to the United States to attend high school.
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His eligibility for this year’s draft came with some complications. He’s 19 years old, and had to plead his case to the NBA that he actually graduated from high school in 2015, but chose to stay an extra year as a post-graduate. This fulfilled both the age and one-year-removed requirements that the NBA has to enter the draft.
Like Bol, Maker has a tendency to like to hoist 3-pointers. Whether NBA coaches choose to embrace this quirk from the 7-footer is debatable, because the real highlight of his game is his remarkable athleticism, especially for his size.
At the 2016 NBA Draft Combine, he recorded a no-step vertical jump of 32 inches, which was the highest ever recorded for any player over 6’11. His leaping ability combined with a 7’3 wingspan and nearly 9’3 standing reach gives him elite shot blocking potential.
Clearly he’ll have to bulk up if he wants to be able to compete with the best interior players of the NBA, but his athleticism is enticing enough to make the Spurs seriously consider taking him with that 29th overall pick.
The Spurs don’t have a 2nd round pick this year, so whoever they choose with their 1st round pick will have to suffice in terms of improving the roster via the draft.
The Spurs have the luxury of having a deep enough lineup that they can easily decide to those the best available player at pick number 29, and it could very well be the ultra-athletic Maker.