Is Thon Maker worth the risk for Celtics?

Thon Maker, the 7'1" Sudanese-Australian center currently playing at Orangeville Prep (Ontario, Canada), declared for the NBA draft this past Sunday. His draft status, however, is still up in the air, as NBA eligibility requires one year removed from high school. Technically, Maker graduated in 2015 and is currently finishing his post-grad year at Orangeville; a situation with almost no precedent set. After the news of his declaration, Chad Ford projected Maker to the Celtics with the 23rd (mathematically, the Celtics could also pick 22nd) overall pick, but is he worth the risk for the C's?

On paper, Maker projects like the prototypical "new age" NBA player. 7'1" with a 9'3" standing reach and a high motor, all while serving as a rim protecting big with range extending out to the 3-point line. Despite this, there are just as many question marks as there are translatable assets. Maker participated in the 2015 Nike Hoops Summit on the International squad alongside possible #1 overall pick Ben Simmons and Kentucky forward Skal Labissiere against a USA team featuring Brandon Ingram, Jamal Murray and numerous other top prospects. Maker failed to impress, scoring only two points and having his basketball IQ and general feel for the game questioned.

There's no debating Maker's skill set is extremely attractive. However, we've seen promising bigs who struggle in the league after showing serious promise in college (Fab Melo, anyone?). The thing that scares me the most is the "feel for the game" issue. It's difficult to trust a player's feel for the game when they have trouble in a pre-college showcase where a guy who looked lost on a premier college team (Labissiere) scored 21 points and blocked 6 shots.

Obviously a one game sample is not indicative of a player's true ability, but I would tread lightly with Maker if I were Danny Ainge, especially at pick 22 or 23. Maker's competition has paled in comparison to college players his age (19) and despite his physical attributes, it's what's between his ears that will ultimately dictate his success at the next level, especially under Brad Stevens' system.

We have plenty of second round picks to take a high risk, high reward player and I would have no issue with Ainge taking Maker later if he's available, but this team is in position to win in the near future and a project like Maker would require playing time in a system that may not be able to afford a "learn on the fly" center taken with a first round pick.

Top photo credit: Roberto Serra/Iguana Press/Getty Images

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