Milwaukee Bucks: What role is best for Thon Maker’s development in the 2018-19 season?

Milwaukee, WI - APRIL 9: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)
Milwaukee, WI - APRIL 9: (Photo by Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images) /

Entering his third season in the league, a high amount of uncertainty still surrounds the development of Milwaukee Bucks big man Thon Maker. With that, what will be the best role for him be playing under new head coach Mike Budenholzer?

Patience was going to be absolutely necessary when the Milwaukee Bucks picked Thon Maker with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft.

Being the first player to jump to the NBA from high school since the one-and-done rule was established in 2005, Maker’s enticing raw base of skills, length and athleticism were alluring enough that it outweighed concerns over his unfleshed game in the eyes of the Bucks’ then-front office, helmed by former general manager John Hammond.

Of course, players possessing those traits have long been Hammond’s calling card, but the insatiable drive and shoot for the moon-like aspirations the Sudanese-born Maker carries added another wrinkle in assessing his overall package once he was officially Milwaukee bound.

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Fast forward two years later and the skepticism surrounding the pick and Maker’s developing and limited game has mostly weighed out when examining what he’s accomplished to this point with the Bucks.

There’s no question there have been flashes displayed from the true seven-footer in his young career.

The biggest example of that have come during each of the last two postseason appearances the Bucks have made, where Maker’s endless defensive activity and fiery attitude have shone in the greatest of spotlights.

But as we’re all aware of, those sparks have hardly been sustained over a greater period of time by Maker, despite the shift in roles and playing time he has seen to this point.

Now entering his third year in the NBA, the biggest question that surrounds the 20-year-old is exploring what kind of role suits him best moving forward in order to help him move past his ever-present inconsistencies and offensive ineffectiveness.

Expectations for on-court success grow increasingly higher for the Bucks by the day and the team obviously addressed their biggest need with the hiring of new head coach Mike Budenholzer just weeks into their offseason this year.

Secondly, the Bucks made their biggest frontcourt addition since Maker entered the fray more than two years ago with the signing of veteran big man Brook Lopez a week into this year’s free agency period (my apologies to Roy Hibbert and Spencer Hawes).

While the arrival of Coach Bud and his staff may end up being a developmental game changer for Maker, the inclusion of Lopez will heavily impact any role and playing time that will be carved out for Maker next season, considering the overlap in roles both will be asked to supply.

With Lopez very likely being slated as the opening day starter at the 5-spot, Maker may have no choice but to make his mark in the bursts that he’s been accustomed to make in the glimpses we’ve seen of him at his best.

From that standpoint, it maximizes the rim protection, floor spacing presence Maker can bring without having to overstretch his capabilities for longer spells as well as going against unfavorable physical matchups.

Whether that’s best for Maker’s development, however, is a different question and it’s fair to wonder if a more limited role for the Australian international may in fact hamstring his development even further to where it is now.

Unfortunately, that may be about the best Maker can ask for until he consistently shows he’s worthy of more minutes with an increased effectiveness on both ends of the floor.

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After all, this was the big dilemma the Bucks faced when they selected Maker two drafts ago. Now after a few twists and turns in the time since then, Maker’s unrefined game is reaching an inflection point that he and the Bucks are increasingly looking to remedy.