With his trade to the Detroit Pistons now official, we reflect on the highs and lows of Thon Maker‘s two-and-a-half years with the Milwaukee Bucks.
The trade winds are gusting around the NBA and we have finally seen the first shoe drop for the Milwaukee Bucks ahead of Thursday afternoon’s deadline.
Wednesday morning saw the jettisoning of third-year big man Thon Maker to the Detroit Pistons in exchange for fourth-year forward Stanley Johnson. As has been constantly noted in the aftermath of the move, it’s a straight up deal that offers both lottery picks a change of scenery to rejuvenate their fledgling NBA careers.
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While we’ll have the rest of the season to see if that will come to fruition, this obviously closes Maker’s chapter in Milwaukee after two-and-a-half years.
Taken with the 10th overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, Maker came to the Bucks as an international man of mystery. Of course, that stemmed from the circuitous route Maker took to enter that year’s draft, which saw him jump from the high school level directly to the pros.
Leaning on the incredibly raw side as far as his skills went, Maker’s blend of physical gifts and athleticism gave all Bucks fans something to be intrigued by, with the common belief being that he could be the team’s stretch five of the future alongside then-budding superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo.
Being the development project that he was (and still is, unfortunately), Maker seldom saw the floor for the first half of his rookie season, save for late game cameos (the most memorable being when he delivered an ankle-breaking crossover on Chris ‘Birdman’ Andersen during a blowout win over the defending champion Cleveland Cavaliers in late November of 2016).
But as the Bucks went into freefall midway through the season, then-head coach Jason Kidd turned to Maker and inserted him into the team’s starting lineup in an effort to turn around their struggles. The ploy worked and under controlled six-minute bursts to open each half of games, Maker soaked up his first meaningful minutes as an NBA player from that point on in the year.
It was during the Bucks’ playoff series against the Toronto Raptors when Maker flashed his potential on the league’s grandest stage, wreaking havoc shadowing the Raptors’ All-Star backcourt of DeMar DeRozan and Kyle Lowry on the defensive end. While the Bucks came up short after a valiant comeback push during Game 6, Maker’s development provided hope to all Bucks fans that he may have been more pro-ready than initially anticipated.
However, the buzz surrounding Maker heading into his sophomore season quickly dissipated and disappointment set in as his and the Bucks’ inconsistencies steadily became the defining trait of their 2017-18 season. Through all of the twists and turns over the course of the campaign, the Australian international fell from opening night starter, to the team’s backup big man, to then picking up a string of DNP-CD’s under then-head coach Joe Prunty.
But as he did the previous year, Maker rose from the ashes to throw a wrench in the Bucks’ first round series against a shorthanded Boston Celtics team, blocking multiple shot attempts and feeding off the energy inside the BMO Harris Bradley Center throughout all of the Bucks’ home playoff tilts.
That helped reclaim some of the momentum that was lost during his second season, but it became clear over the course of last offseason that Maker wouldn’t be guaranteed the same playing time opportunities heading into his third season, especially in light of the shrewd free agent addition of Brook Lopez.
With the peripheral role he played throughout the Bucks’ highly successful season this year, that set the wheels in motion and fast tracked Maker’s departure from the Cream City with his trade request coming to light in late January, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Maker leaves Milwaukee having averaged 4.5 points on shooting splits of .431/.332/.654 as well as 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks across his 166 appearances with the Bucks.
For all of his desires to be great, his jovial attitude and the trials he endured to simply survive well before making it to the NBA, it was easy to see why the 21-year-old was seen as a fan favorite. But through of all that, Maker’s potential couldn’t give way to some form of consistency, despite the chances he earned to prove that he could be a reliable contributor.
All in all, it’s an untimely end for Maker’s stay in Milwaukee, but it looked as if we reached a point of no return after Maker couldn’t see the floor for clean up crew minutes in light of wanting a move elsewhere. With that, we wish all the best of luck to Thon moving forward, wherever that should take him.