The Milwaukee Bucks' Summer League season got off to a solid start, taking down the Cleveland Cavaliers 81-75 behind a 15-point, 13-rebound double-double by Thon Maker. Malcolm Brogdon started and tallied 9 points, 11 rebounds, and 3 assists. Ra'Shad James had 14 points off the bench.
A couple of things are immediately obvious watching Maker play. Maybe the most notable thing is how fast he is at 7'1". Not just how quick he can get down the court (without the ball, at least), but how quick he can move around the floor, and get off it. That speed was evident on a couple dunks and rebounds, and late in the fourth quarter he showed off by closing out a corner three coming from near the free-throw line, partially blocking the shot. It's a special talent for somebody at his height. How well it will hold up as Maker fills out his frame -- something that he'll definitely need to do to be really successful -- remains to be seen, but he's starting for a good place.
Thankfully we got to see a lot of him in his Summer League debut. Maker played nearly 31 minutes and largely made the most of them. Though it's clear Maker is capital-R raw like we haven't seen since the early days of Giannis Antetokounmpo, there was plenty to like in his first Vegas outing. Aside from the aforementioned speed, Maker's ability was most apparent on the glass and on defense. Defending the high pick and roll, Maker was able to slow down ballhandlers with some disruptive hard shows, then quickly recover into the paint to pick up his man. That's an increasingly vital skill for NBA big men, and Maker's willingness and ability are good early signs. The trouble on defense comes when he's picking up guys going toward the rim, where he had a tendency to reach and push, picking up a few personal fouls. And perhaps unsurprisingly for a 7'1" player in a game that featured someone measured at 5'9", Maker was quite productive on the glass, including a couple nice offensive boards.
Some Thon highlights:
Not that there weren't hiccups. Maker's few attempts to move with the ball were far from successful, at one point getting picked easily when he tried to drive from the top of the arc. He didn't shoot well either, missing 9 of his 14 shots including all four of his three point attempts, though he did sink 5 of 7 free throws.
Brogdon looked more or less like we expected. Calm, nothing flashy, just straightforward basketball -- with varying levels of effectiveness. Brogdon could have had a couple more assists, as a few nice passes were spoiled by bad hands and missed shots, but he hardly looked like an elite distributor, and we didn't see much work in organized sets. The rebounding was impressive, a testament to Brogdon's strength and instincts, and he held up just fine on defense. On the down side, he short-armed a couple airballed jumpers in a row and also missed both of his free throws -- an especially strange occurrence for a guy who shot 90% from the line in college last year. It will be worth watching how his relatively flat jumper translates to the longer NBA line, though he did hit his third attempt.
I'm tempted to launch into a thing about Rashad Vaughn, who looked pretty awful, but apparently his hand is all cut up, so there's perhaps a fair explanation for his 4-16 shooting night (1-8 3PT). I mean, there's a fair explanation either way, but the former is at least easier to stomach. In any case, it was hardly a banner night for Vaughn, who displayed little more than bad shot selection and his trademark sloppy dribbling.
The Bucks play again on Sunday, when they'll face off against the D-League Select Team.