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Growing up Thunder: Théo Maledon looks to build on rookie season

Théo Maledon came into the 2020 NBA Draft, with projections ranging from late first round to early second round. He was touted as a mature player for being 19 years old with a high basketball IQ.

Playing internationally, Maledon was able to get professional experience early. He showed a good 3-point shot and being a game manager. He also got a high praise for being coached by former San Antonio Spur great, Tony Parker.

He made his way to OKC via a trade with the Philadelphia 76ers, that saw Al Horford and the rights to Vasilije Micic come along with him. As the 76ers were looking to dump salary, the Thunder also received their 2022 first round pick.

Maledon was able to have an impact early with the team, as OKC wasn’t looking at competing. This was integral in seeing the player that they had in Maledon. Albeit a few injuries and some health and safety protocols, Maledon was able to play in 65 games and gain valuable experience.

On many teams, Maledon would’ve been bound for the G-League and not in an NBA rotation. But in his case, he was able to get meaningful NBA minutes, while starting 49 games. Playing against NBA players far outweighs playing against G League teams.

The results were scattered, he had a rough 36.8/33.5/74.8 shooting line. He also didn’t distribute as much as a point guard should, granted OKC had many different lineups and not much consistently. Also didn’t help that they were one of the lowest scoring teams in the league.

Summer league 2021 allowed Maledon the chance to be the guy and he showed that he’s ready for season number two. His rookie year showed ups and downs, but overall the growth that we could see long term will help him.

Strengths:

3-point shooting

Maledon possesses good qualities as a shooter. He struggled from deep in his rookie season. But he did have games, where he showed that he will be a good 3-point shooter in this league. He had a 6-6 game against the Nets and hit multiple triples in 32 games on the season.

IQ

He was coached by Parker, who always have the Thunder trouble with how smart he was. As a a 19 year old, Maledon played the game very smooth and fluid. He sees the court well and doesn’t let the moment get too big for him.

Defense

He is not a lockdown defender, but he does have very good lateral quickness. His willingness to pick up full length of court, will help create silly turnovers over a game span. His 81 inch wingspan will help him close down passing lanes and create loose balls for his team.

Weaknesses:

Athleticism

Maledon doesn’t possess a lot of athleticism. He is never going to be a Russell Westbrook type player that can jump through the roof. But his game imitates Tony Parker, which may not be a bad thing.

Passing

His rookie year can be forgiven, there was a lot going on and many lineup changes. But his passing needs to improve from a point guard standpoint. On the bright side he showed passing improvement in Summer League, which was highlighted by an 11 assist performance in the opener.

Outlook:

Maledon should play much better this season. He has the tools to be a solid point guard. It will also help that the Thunder, barring injuries, should put a more stable lineup on the court this season.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is the lead point guard for this team. But his ability to play a combo guard, could free up more minutes for Maledon to run the offense. This will be integral late in games as OKC has loved to deploy three guard lineups over the years.

Maledon was more than expected being a toss in with the Al Horford trade. He could end up being the best player involved in the deal, as all his tools come together. OKC would love a Tony Parker 2.0.

Author

Justin Hickey
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