Theo Maledon Declares for 2020 NBA Draft; Projected Top-20 Pick

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured ColumnistApril 5, 2020

BELGRADE, SERBIA - NOVEMBER 15: Theo Maledon of Asvel Villeurbanne in action during the 2019/2020 Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Regular Season Round 8 match between Crvena Zvezda mts Belgrade and LDLC Asvel Villeurbane at Stark Arena on November 15, 2019 in Belgrade, Serbia. (Photo by Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images)
Srdjan Stevanovic/Getty Images

One of the most talented international prospects in basketball is headed to the sport's highest level.

Point guard Theo Maledon from France declared for the 2020 NBA draft Sunday, per Jonathan Givony of ESPN.

"Before COVID-19 stopped basketball, I was looking forward to finishing the Euroleague season and hopefully winning the LNB Championship," Maledon told ESPN. "Normally, the championship would have run until the second week of June, so I would not have much time to train in the U.S. before the draft. Now the landscape has changed, but I have to wait like everyone else to see when and what we are able to do.

"Right now I am doing everything possible at my house to maintain my conditioning. Really all I can do is listen to the experts, the officials, and my team and stay at home. I know this is not what I expected, but knowing I will be in the NBA next year is what I am focused on. One day I will shake Commissioner Silver's hand."

While he may not be a household name for American college basketball fans, Maledon projects as a first-round talent. In February, Bleacher Report's Jonathan Wasserman projected the Minnesota Timberwolves to select the French point guard with the No. 16 overall pick.

Wasserman pointed to the 6'3" Maledon's "ball skills, shooting potential, coordination, IQ and effectiveness in Euroleague" as things that can help him overcome "his lack of speed and athletic limitations."

Maledon is just 18 years old but has been competing at a professional level since the 2017-18 season for ASVEL in France. He also captured gold for the French national team at the 2016 Under-16 European Championship and silver at the 2018 Under-17 World Cup before playing for the senior team during the 2019 World Cup qualifiers.

He can shoot from three-point range, attack the lane and facilitate when defenders collapse and only figures to improve with additional experience in the coming years. 

Even without explosive athleticism, Maledon has the size to score over defenders, can pull up when given too much space and finish around the rim. His versatile skill set should help him compete for playing time right away in the NBA.

While Tony Parker comparisons will be natural and set the bar quite high given his status as a point guard from France, Maledon has the potential to be a key piece in future playoff runs for whichever team selects him.

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