Thon Maker is not developing as hoped for the Detroit Pistons. He is a real chance of finding himself out of the league unless he puts in the work.
When the Detroit Pistons traded Stanley Johnson for Thon Maker as part of a huge three-team deal, they would have been hoping for playoff Thon. Instead, the Pistons have received the same raw talent that was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks with the 10th pick in the 2016 draft.
Maker is such an enticing prospect. He runs the floor well and he can shoot from the perimeter. Maker has great length but is yet to develop the muscle required to mix it with opposing centers. It is not just the starters he struggles against physically, it is the reserves as well.
Where Maker has saved his career is in the playoffs, having averaged 1.8 blocks per game across two playoff runs in Milwaukee. He becomes a defensive beast, blocking shots with a ferocity that stops players in their tracks. This allows him to stay on the court longer and get some decent offense going.
However, a team like the Pistons cannot afford to carry Maker for a full 82 game season to see the playoff beast unleashed. This is especially true as it looks like they are looking unlikely to make the playoffs this season. He needs to be this player from October to April as well.
When Maker left the Bucks, he did so saying he wanted to play for an organization where he would get more playing time. In his two and a half seasons with the Bucks, Maker has played 166 games, averaging 4.5 points, 2.6 rebounds and 0.6 blocks per game in 13.3 minutes.
Once traded from the Bucks to the Pistons, Maker got his wish, averaging 19.4 minutes per game. What did he do in this extra time? He averaged 5.5 points, 3.7 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game. Not the uptick in numbers hoped for.
However, this season is showing that coach Dwane Casey has little faith in the play of Maker. Even with Blake Griffin out for a large chunk of games, Maker has only played 12.2 minutes per contest. His scoring average has dipped to the lowest of his career, averaging just 3.5 points per game.
He is averaging the second-lowest rebounds in his career with just 2.1 per game, just 0.1 off his career-wors. This shows that Maker has regressed since the trade, as opposed to the progression he insinuated he would attain if given more minutes.
Part of the reason for this is the development of Christian Wood this season. Wood has been on the fringes of the NBA since the 2015-16 season. Since that time Wood has played for five NBA franchises for a total of 68 games.
He came of age last season when he played eight games the New Orleans Pelicans, averaging16.9 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.3 blocks per game. Where Wood has the advantage over Maker is that he has had to fight for his time in the NBA. Now that he is on the Detroit Pistons roster, Wood is making the most of his talents.
As an effort player, he is averaging 7.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.0 blocks per game. He is taking the time that Maker should have been getting if he deserved it. Maker seems to blame everything but himself for his lack of playing time.
He was handed a good contract by the nature of being a first-round pick and has never had to worry. He also had the label of being a project which meant he could give himself time as he was not expected to be a world-beater yet.
If Maker does not show that he has anything more than just potential, he may find himself out of the league next year. Perhaps then we will see Maker work hard to get back into the league and come closer to his best self.