Touted forward Thon Maker was reportedly granted 2016 eligibility by the NBA on Thursday, creating a path that may allow top prospects to enter the draft out of high school.
Chad Ford of ESPN.com reported the news, with Jonathan Givony of Draft Express providing confirmation. Maker, 19, will hire an agent rather than retain his amateurism, per Ford. The 7'0" power forward was ranked as the No. 10 high school player in the nation by 247Sports before announcing his intention to enter the draft earlier in April.
“We believe that [Maker] has fulfilled the academic requirements to be eligible for the 2016 draft," Edward Smith, Maker's legal guardian, told Bleacher Report. "He will apply for the 2016 NBA draft and await approval from the NBA.”
“[Maker] has been the hardest-working and the most astute kid I’ve coached in my 23 years of coaching," Smith continued. "I’m happy to have placed him in the position to have this choice.”
Maker presents an interesting case because he attended Orangeville Prep (Canada) this year. The NBA requires players to be at least 19 years of age and one year removed from high school before declaring for the draft. Maker and his guardian were tasked with convincing the NBA that he chose to stay in high school on his own volition as a post-graduate student.
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This path may be something future prospects follow. By doing post-graduate years in high school, prospects who are struggling to maintain their grades may be able to avoid NCAA eligibility issues. It can also serve as a bit of protection against the rigors of major collegiate competition. While an overwhelming majority will still pick the one-and-done route, this is an alternative not previously considered.
Maker, who ascended to national fame amid a series of viral videos depicting a strong all-around skill set, remains an enigma. He's listed at just 205 pounds, a beanpole at his 7'0" frame. Even as the NBA evolves into a more five-out offensive system, Maker is going to have trouble competing against strength.
There are also major questions about his NBA readiness from a skill standpoint. Maker is raw. He has a lot of components that could make a great player down the line, but he needs to work hard to realize his potential.
"Of the scouts I surveyed, one had him in the late lottery, several others in the mid 20s and one in the second round. That's a massive range," Ford wrote.
Despite being a nationally known recruit, Maker is one of the hardest prospects to evaluate in a long time. See him on a good day, and he's a superstar. He's a smooth athlete who can stretch the floor beyond three-point range, protect the rim at an elite level and work as an open-floor alley-oop menace. See him on a bad day, he's barely draftable. He's aloof, misses defensive rotations, chucks up bad shots and looks like he's made of feathers.
That's a difficult juxtaposition. Maker is probably going to be taken in the first round. Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman has him going No. 26 to the Toronto Raptors. Some team is going to look at his immense potential and roll the dice—especially in this weak class.
Workouts will be paramount in establishing how high Maker will go.
Follow Tyler Conway (@jtylerconway) on Twitter.