- Gregory Payan/AP
Thon Maker’s path to tonight’s NBA draft has been one of the more curious journeys we’ve seen in some time.
He rose, seemingly out of nowhere, to internet-mixtape viral fame. He then successfully petitioned to jump straight from his prep school in Canada to the draft by claiming that he was not a senior, but instead completing a post-graduate year – meaning that he had graduated in 2015, not 2016.
As recently as this week, the 7-foot-1 prospect was projected to be a late first-round, early second-round pick.
Except now, on the eve of the NBA draft, nobody knows for certain how old Maker really is.
According to SI’s Jake Fischer, NBA scouts are not sure whether or not Maker was really born in 1997, as he claims. Many believe that he’s either 21, 22, or 23, not 19, and this has several teams pulling him from their first-round draft board.
Several teams have entirely ruled Thon Maker out of the first round due to his age. Multiple sources believe Maker to be 21-23, not 19.
— Jake Fischer (@JakeLFischer) June 23, 2016
Maker is a raw 7-footer, and played this season in Ontario after spending some time in the States. He left civil war in Sudan and, if he is drafted tonight, will be the first player since 2005 to jump straight from high school to the NBA.
But much of Maker’s appeal is speculative: He is the ultimate high-ceiling project, but there is ultimately very little hard evidence to evaluate his game.
As a scout told The Undefeated, “The real problem with Thon Maker? There’s so little to evaluate his ability.”
The lack of basketball footage, plus the questions over the year in which he was born, makes Maker less of a project and more of a risk. While we don’t want to speculate why he was so eager to jump from high school to the pros earlier this year, the uncertainty over his age could add some clarity.
It’s likely that some team will take a chance on him late in the second round simply because of his physical traits. But the difference between 19 and 21 is a big one in the NBA: That two-year gap could be the difference between a first- and second-round pick – and a lot of money.