MISSISSAUGA, Ont. — There are times it feels like you’ve seen everything when scouting amateur basketball players. It’s a feeling that quickly evaporates when you walk into a side court at an unassuming Lifetime Fitness in the Toronto suburbs to find 40-some NBA scouts crammed into folding chairs on the sidelines.
They were all there for Matur Maker, younger brother of Bucks forward Thon, who plans to follow the same path and bypass college basketball entirely for the 2018 NBA Draft. Currently in the midst of his post-graduate season in Canada, Maker recently turned 20 and will be a full year removed from high school graduation. With all 30 NBA teams sending contingents to the area for this year’s G-League Showcase, word trickled out quietly among team personnel that Maker’s Mississauga Prep squad had conveniently set up games this week, with Thursday functionally serving as a coming-out party of sorts.
“This definitely wasn’t a waste of time,” one scout in attendance told me, and it’s safe to say that Maker made the most of a strong opportunity to pique interest. While it’s too soon to make an educated guess as to where he might be drafted, he established baseline value as a player teams will have to consider seriously over the next six months. Maker racked up a massive line of 45 points, 20 rebounds, two assists, two blocks and three steals as his team fell 95–85 to GTA Prep, another area program. And although context has to be mentioned immediately—it’s obviously just one game and the majority of Maker’s opponents were much younger and less developed physically, including highly-rated 17-year-old Canadian wing A.J. Lawson—the 6’10” big put his NBA-caliber physical tools on full display.
With a listed 7’2” wingspan, Maker shares his brother’s quick-twitch athletic fluidity and possesses a thicker (though slightly shorter) frame. When he runs the floor hard, it’s impressive to watch. His skill set is imperfect but no less intriguing: he spent time bringing the ball up the floor and on multiple occasions was able to grab a defensive rebound and go coast to coast for dunks. While he didn’t even attempt to finish with his left hand and won’t break anyone down off the bounce at the next level, Maker has potentially legitimate perimeter functionality as a screener. On the defensive end, he brings some versatility, able to sit down in a stance and move laterally. He had good moments as a shot-blocker, though he may not have the timing or length to ever anchor a defense.
Multiple scouts in the gym mentioned that Maker’s jump shot will ultimately be a major determinant when it comes to his NBA success, as is the case with many mobile bigs in this era. He hit one unguarded spot-up three from the right wing late in the game, but otherwise looked tentative as a shooter and had a couple of bad misses. There’s some ability there, but that aspect of his game is nowhere close to translating at this stage. He’s athletic and smooth but not eye-poppingly explosive, and scouts are eager to see how he’d fare against more legitimate competition. After spending the last 24 hours watching games at the G-League Showcase, it’s clear that Maker’s pure physical ability would put him among the higher-ceiling prospects among this crop.
There were times Maker appeared to tire out and simply went through the motions, but when plugged in, he was physical, intense and too much for any of his opponents to stop. From an evaluator’s standpoint, it’s difficult to tell if his high-volume shot selection was affected by the immediate presence of scouts and the audition-like nature of the game itself. That said, his stats were absurd, but also exactly what you should be seeing from him given the talent disparity. It’s also worth noting that he led the prestigious Adidas Nations event in scoring last summer against much better competition. Speaking of the competition, it’s worth filing away A.J. Lawson’s name for the future—the 6’7” wing has projectable athleticism and ball-handling skills, college offers including Oregon and SMU and recently took an unofficial to Kentucky (he’s set to graduate in 2019).
Maker should have a chance to fill an energy role on the interior for a team if his entire package comes together, but will likely require seasoning in the G-League or elsewhere. Remember that Thon, who is 11 months older, was drafted 10th overall by the Bucks in 2016 based on his long-term potential. Though like his brother he remains a work in progress, it’s evident the younger Maker will be worth following closely in the run-up to June’s draft.