The Milwaukee Bucks took a risk by selecting Thon Maker 10th overall in the 2016 NBA draft. Today he is playing in China.
The Bucks franchise could have looked a lot different without Maker. Of course, hindsight is “20-20”, but that pick has come to shape how the team even looks today.
Maker as a “fit”
That was a key draft for the team, looking to add to the rising star that appeared to be Giannis and getting serviceable minutes and efforts out of number two pick Jabari Parker. But, contrary to popular opinion at the time, it really has come off as a down year overall for the NBA draft. In 2016 many NBA pundits called it one of the “deeper” drafts and “chalk full” of talent. Instead plenty of other NBA teams find themselves in a similar, difficult situation from the hardships from the 2016 NBA draft. (Ben Simmons was the number one overall pick and what franchise needs that drama right now!)
Who else could the Bucks have drafted instead of Maker? Remember, Giannis was drafted in 2013, so any number of “dream team” scenarios can exist in the minds of Bucks fans based-off the 2016 draft. You can even see here how with just a different pick, a new “big three” could have emerged with Giannis, Parker and ____________.
Coach Jason Kidd was, like Scott Skiles and George Karl, notoriously harder on rookies. But for Maker, a seven footer with tons of raw talent, he averaged only 4 points and 2 rebounds a game his rookie year- right in line with his career averages in the NBA. And again, he is currently playing in China.
So what are those other “dream” picks?
Domantas Sabonis (11th Overall)
Sabonis has an elite athlete pedigree. His dad is Arvydas Sabonis who played professionally for the Portland Trailblazer and who seemed to win every gold medal possible. Standing at a stout 7’ 3” and 300 lbs, Arvydas was a big machine. Domantas stands at the shorter 6’ 11”.
The knock on Domantas at the time was the seemingly common refrain from NBA experts: no tape and little information. Plus, could he be signed? Those clearly were concerns that were quickly alleviated.
Well, pairing Sabonis with Giannis and Parker, you could imagine a formidable front line. Having played for the Kings and Pacers, getting Sabonis to Milwaukee certainly never seemed like much of an issue.
Plus, his career 18 points a game with 12 rebounds stat line would be very helpful and productive.
He continues to play as a top twenty overall NBA talent.
Pascal Siakam (27th Overall)
In the Bucks defense it seemed difficult to know at the time how good Pascal was going to be as a player. Similar to this year’s 27th pick (Nikola Jovic) it seems like this was a pick that had some risk. (Of course, Maker at 10 also had that risk.)
Siakam struggled his first two years, posting numbers only slightly better than Maker. But then, in 2019 during the Raptors championship run it all seemed to come together. His ability to “turn it on” helped allow that team to defeat the Warriors 4-2.
Could you imagine Giannis and Pascal rim protecting together? Seems to be quite a formidable duo. And we’ll never know if Giannis could have been Kawi?
Dejounte Murray (29th Overall)
Murray has really turned it on of late, being a nice piece of the Atlanta Hawks to acquire in this offseason. But again, like Maker and Siakam, he started his career off slowly in the league, averaging around 9 minutes a game and four points. For Murray it wasn’t until recently that he has turned into a star, averaging over 21 points a game and 34 minutes.
Would Murray be an upgrade from Khris Middleton? That, of course, is up for debate.
But an athletic shooter is something the Bucks have always seemed to desire. A shooter. A scorer. Murray would have filled those desires.
Who we also got!
Malcolm Brogdon was selected 36th by the Milwaukee Bucks. He continues to play today and was a strong, contributing member of the Bucks. While I would not necessarily argue it, others have Brogdon as one of the greatest second round value picks ever. As a point of comparison the 40th overall pick was former Dominican standout Diamond Stone. To my understanding, Stone currently plays professionally in Puerto Rico.
Hindsight is 20/20. But looking back at these old drafts it seems clear that just a few picks can change the destiny and fortune of an entire franchise.