The Los Angeles Lakers have been canvassing the NBA pre-draft combine over the past few days, interviewing prospects for both a potential top-three pick as well options for their second rounder. One of the more intriguing players the team could select with the latter option is 19-year old Sudanese seven-footer Thon Maker, who will become the first player to enter the NBA straight out of high school since 2005.
The Lakers were one of several teams to interview the intriguing seven-footer at the combine, according to Adam Zagoria of SNY. It is unknown what the front office thought of Maker, but Draft Express currently lists him as the 39th best prospect available in the draft. If that's truly where Maker's stock lies it would make him an option for the Lakers second round pick, the 32nd overall selection, but according to one of Zagoria's sources Maker could be selected anywhere from the sixth to the 20th overall pick.
The reason some front offices might rate Maker so much more highly than Draft Express could be how heavily hyped he was when he was younger, with some comparing the wiry teenager to Kevin Durant. Maker himself isn't willing to go that far:
"Exactly, I like Durant as a player," Maker, who is originally from Sudan and has lived in Australia, the U.S. and Canada, said with a chuckle here Friday. "They [the media] say I think I think I'm Durant... Thon Maker is a very, very intense, high-IQ player," he said. "He's a playmaker and he's a hard worker."
Maker elaborated on those early Durant comparisons to David Aldridge of NBA.com, and it sounds like he wishes they hadn't happened.
"People have got to stop mixtapes," he said. "That's not me. I'll bet you those people that put out those mixtapes never really sat through a game of mine and saw my defensive rotation, the way I communicate to my teammates, the way I pass the ball. They probably got the bad passes, the one-and passes, and didn't get the fundamental two-handed jump shot or skip passes. They don't get to see all that."
Maker's draft stock, like many young prospects before him, has seemed to suffer simply from him not living up to insane early comparisons. He will in all likelihood never be as good of a player as Kevin Durant, but he doesn't have to be. Most players aren't. At this point Maker just has to focus on being the best player he can be.
If Maker is locked in as a power forward right now (the position he told Zagoria he informed NBA teams he plans to play) it's hard to project where he would get minutes on a Lakers team that currently possesses Julius Randle and Larry Nance, Jr. at that position. However, considering Maker most likely won't be ready for minutes right away, his potential upside would certainly seem to make him worth a gamble if he's still around when the Lakers make the 32nd pick.
Even if he doesn't turn into Kevin Durant.
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