Kevin Garnett recently chopped it up with Bleacher Report’s Jonathan Abrams, discussing a litany of topic ranging from the NBA’s age limit debate to Kevin Durant. Garnett — who has spent time visiting and working out with several teams and players since retiring from the NBA in September of 2016 — was most effusive when talking about second-year center Thon Maker.
To some, the Milwaukee Bucks big man might seem like a pedestrian young player who hasn’t yet lived up to his pre-draft hype. To future Hall of Famer Garnett, though? Maker’s got what it takes to be special:
Thon Maker reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game. He’s a young, exuberant athlete who has a lot of tools — he has touch; he has agility; he has really good feet. He has a really good shot, from 3-point all the way up to 19 to 21 feet. He has very good bones, as we say.
Thon is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down. He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that.
Garnett-Maker comparisons themselves aren’t surprising. They harken back to Maker’s high school origins. They also seem to be each other’s favorite players. In fact, this apparently isn’t even the first time KG has made this exact bold statement:
"Kevin Garnett told me that Thon Maker will be the MVP of the league one day." –@RealVinBaker saying KG said that Vin can quote him on that
— SiriusXM NBA Radio (@SiriusXMNBA) March 20, 2017
Maker’s wingspan, length and lanky build, combined with the capacity to shoot from long range and handle the ball off the bounce, give him the tools (or, as Garnett says, “bones”) to one day grow into an elite player. But MVP-caliber is a few steps beyond where many reasonable observers would project Maker’s developmental ceiling.
Like Garnett, Maker is a preps-to-pros phenom, which is equally as impressive in an era where a draft age minimum has been imposed, limiting the number of teenage prep prospects who can jump to the big leagues. Of course, Garnett also has skin in the game, as he’s served as a mentor to Maker for some time now:
— Milwaukee Bucks (@Bucks) November 15, 2017
Unfortunately, Maker has been unremarkable in the NBA. The adjustments we expected to see in his second season haven’t been apparent to the naked eye. His per-36-minute numbers, field goal percentages and 3-point shooting percentages have declined as his role has grown. He’s a more integral part of Jason Kidd’s rotation now, but is shooting 37 percent from the field, an awfully low mark for a player who possesses a meager offensive role. He was benched early on in the season.
Those numbers are a continuation of disappointing play by Maker. Even in the aftermath of Greg Monroe’s injury and subsequent trade, Maker’s role has remained unchanged. Instead, the Bucks have kept Maker on the bench and turned to center John Henson, who has teetered on the brink of irrelevance seemingly throughout his career in Milwaukee.
MVP, then, seems like a ridiculously high bar for Maker to clear. Yes, Maker’s teammate, Giannis Antetokounmpo, had a similar profile as a rookie and is now an MVP candidate, but he may have skewed our perceptions.
Maker may never reach Antetokounmpo or Garnett’s ceiling. Offensively, he’s not a potent shot-creator and his legend appears to have been amplified by awe-inspiring YouTube highlight reels. Maker would have to make a leap of epic proportions to reach those heights.
Despite Garnett’s oversized expectations, this just feels like KG jumping the shark. The Bucks, for their part, would probably settle for him becoming a strong two-way contributor, viable starter and maybe even fringe All-Star.