Thon Maker's European experience may be done and dusted, but the NBL could provide a new launching pad for the former lottery pick to get back into the NBA.

Thon Maker: Australia’s unicorn. He was the definition of a ‘project player’ when he was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 2016.

A seven-foot centre with guard abilities, Maker had the world on notice as a super talented player who oozed untapped-potential. 

“I’m going to be an MVP. I’m going to be Defensive Player of the Year,” he said post-draft.

“Not just once, multiple times… and the rings part is the biggest one for me. And the Hall of Fame part.” 

He’s a guy with all the potential in the world and with lofty ambitions. However, Maker’s desired career has gone downhill ever since it started.

While you could argue that he had a solid NBA career, it hasn’t lived up to the lofty expectations that both fans and he himself placed on it.

The 24-year-old was recently released by Hapoel Jerusalem in the Israeli Basketball Premier League, after a poor start to the season. He averaged 3.5 points and four rebounds in only six games for the Israeli side.

His shocking release has incited discussion about the potential an NBL lifeline. 

The Inner Sanctum takes you through Maker’s potential landing spots in Australia, and what they will get out of the former lottery pick.

The teams in contention:

Sydney Kings

Well, when you have half your family playing at the Kings, it is always an option.

Maker could join brother Matur and cousin Makur at the Kings, as a recent season-ending injury to Jordan Hunter has opened the door for Thon to join the Sydney side.

The centre would slot right into the Kings comfortably with Hunter now out. He could create a lethal front-court partnership with import Jarell Martin and Xavier Cooks.

His speed and agility would suit coach Chase Buford’s offensive ‘six seconds or less’ game style, as a fast over seven-footer would add nicely to the Kings.

The Kings are not scared of spending big, and Maker would add very nicely to their roster.

Perth Wildcats

If Maker wants to win a championship while playing big minutes, this is his best bet.

The Wildcats are his hometown team, which would also be part of the draw for Maker to return to Perth. Before he signed in Europe, Perth did make an offer to Maker, which he eventually turned down. 

But the Wildcats should wait to see if Matt Hodgson, when fully healthy, is good enough at the level they want. They don’t need Maker to win a championship, but it would add a much more versatile starting centre to their roster. 

Maker would add a much-needed stretch five to their roster. While Majok Majok has been seen in training videos to shoot the ball, he hasn’t knocked down a shot in a competitive game. Oliver Hayes-Brown is only a DP and wouldn’t be playing big minutes. 

Maker might be the right piece in the puzzle for a championship winning Wildcats roster.

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Cairns Taipans

This is a bit more ‘outside the box’, but this is what they need. Cairns need a mobile centre who is able to switch onto smaller guards. Nate Jawai and Stephen Zimmerman are strong players in their own right, but they are not as good defensively on smaller guys as Maker. 

While the financial side of things may be a block in the road for the Taipans, this would be a good move by them to add a true local star to their roster.

Maker would be a much better centre for Scott Machado to pass to than either Zimmerman or Jawai. While he isn’t Cam Oliver, he would do wonders for this Cairns team that is desperate to add something to its struggling roster.

Tasmania JackJumpers

This is by far the best option for not only Maker, but also the team which he will be going to.

Tasmania has a real lack of centres on the current roster. When the only real back-up centre is a developmental player in Jock Perry, it is not a well-balanced squad.

What the JackJumpers need is a true local star so they can not only keep their imports, but strengthen their roster. Maker is that player.

Maker would help bridge that height gap that the JackJumpers have when compared to other teams, as well as making Will Magnay play at the four in what would be a true powerhouse front court.

The former Milwaukee Buck will help stretch the floor, which will aid coach Scott Roth’s offensive system. Maker would not be a liability on the defensive end, and his combination of speed and height will fit right into their trap defence.  

The JackJumpers will be the best opportunity in terms of minutes and getting back into the NBA. The question would be whether Maker would want to embrace being in a small market.

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