Thon Maker just revealed a loophole that NBA and NCAA officials probably would have preferred remained closed.
The skilled 7-footer found a way to bypass the one-and-done rule and go straight from prep school to the NBA.
Under the current NBA collective bargaining agreement, draft-eligible prospects not defined as international players must be at least 19 years old during the calendar year of the draft and at least one year removed from graduating high school. With the exception of Brandon Jennings, Emmanuel Mudiay and a handful of other prospects who have spent a pre-draft season playing professionally overseas or in the D-League, most elite high school players opt to play a year or more of college basketball.
Maker opened another potential avenue on Thursday when the NBA ruled him eligible for this June's draft, a league spokesman confirmed to Yahoo Sports. Maker, 19, completed the requisite coursework to graduate from high school last spring, spent a post-graduate year in prep school and declared for the draft two weeks ago.
Part of the appeal that approach for Maker was potential eligibility issues that would have jeopardized his chances of playing in college had he tried to go that route. The other advantage is that the projected late first-round draft pick didn't have to risk exposing himself against college competition and damaging his stock in the process.
Spending time in college basketball is typically beneficial to prospects because of the quality of competition and coaching as well as the life skills gained, however, there are always guys each year who cost themselves boatloads of cash because their draft stock plummets. Last year, Kansas' Cliff Alexander struggled and went from surefire first-round pick to undrafted. This year, Kentucky's Skal Labissiere and Kansas' Cheick Diallo saw their stature take a hit after underwhelming freshman seasons.
If Maker were to perform well at the combine or in workouts or Labissiere or Diallo fall further than expected in the upcoming draft, you could see future prospects and their advisers take notice. A player who is already a projected first-round pick by the time he graduates high school might prefer to spend a post-graduate year "hiding" at an off-the-radar prep school rather than risk being exposed against college competition.
That's not a trend that would be beneficial for basketball either at the college or NBA level.
Prospects who skip college are more difficult for NBA scouts to assess because there are fewer chances to see them in meaningful games against top competition. It's also harder for those prospects to adjust to the NBA not only socially but also because the schemes more complex than high school basketball and the players are so much stronger and faster.
There was a time many thought that more prospects would follow in the footsteps of Jennings and choose to spend a year making money overseas rather than playing in college. Thus far Mudiay is the only other high-profile player to do that, and potential eligibility issues at SMU played a role in that decision.
Perhaps Maker will be viewed as an outlier in the future. Or maybe he'll turn out to be more of a trendsetter. Either way, it's a meaningful draft story that is worth watching moving forward.
The Vertical breaks down Thon Maker's strengths:
- - - - - - -