One month ahead of the 2016 NBA Draft, Thon Maker has met with 12 teams, including the Portland Trail Blazers, according to Andrew Seligman of the Associated Press. The 19-year-old Sudanese-Australian 7-footer made headlines last month when the NBA ruled him eligible to enter the draft out of high school, having received his diploma in 2015 before spending a fifth year at Athlete Institute Prep. If selected, Maker will be the first player to go from preps to the NBA since the colloquially known "one-and-done" rule was established in 2005.
Currently, the Blazers possess no draft picks, but that does not necessarily mean GM Neil Olshey will sit on his hands if the right opportunity to move assets around presents itself. Although Maker is just over seven feet tall, he projects as a power forward; Portland’s least certain position. It is too early to tell who the Blazers will retain of the Meyers Leonard, Moe Harkless, Cliff Alexander free agent/non-guaranteed PF triumvirate. Chances are, the position will need bolstering, and Maker—projected in the 25-40 range—could be a cheap way to do that; especially if the Blazers are looking to afford other moves in July.
However, the Blazers should exercise appropriate caution when investigating Maker. Yes, he can run the floor, play above the rim, and defend well enough, but—without taking anything away from him—his media mystique is largely due to the circumstances of his eligibility and a highlight reel mixtape. As recently as April 4, we saw Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports warn of Maker’s status as a long-term project.
Wherever Thon Maker gets drafted, expect him to spend most of next couple years in the D-League. NBA execs have mostly seen him regress.— Adrian Wojnarowski (@WojVerticalNBA) April 4, 2016
Still, there is something to be said for collecting and developing young talent. If nothing else, the Blazers’ meeting with Maker indicates a willingness to explore draft options and, by extension, the trade(s) that would have to precede any sort of pursuit. It has long been said that the Blazers will continue shedding and gaining pieces as their restructuring progresses. The next move could be made just around the corner.