French 19-year-old Theo Maledon has a very bright career ahead of him. The Oklahoma City Thunder picked Maledon 34th overall in the 2020 draft. Additionally, he has already proven that he was a steal in the draft, providing some valuable minutes for OKC. So today, we’ll take a look at Theo Maledon and why he has such a bright future.
Extensive Basketball History
Although only 19 years of age, Theo Maledon already has lots of history playing both pro and semipro. Maledon played in France from 2017-2019 and already has an impressive basketball resume.
In just his first season in the LNB Espoirs junior French league, Maledon became the youngest all-star in LNB history at age 17. Maledon signed his first professional contract with ASVEL after the 2017-2018 season. Additionally, less than a year later, Maledon would help his team win the French Cup. The league named him French Cup MVP at just 17 years of age.
Maledon has also received mentorship from Tony Parker, an all-time great point guard. Maledon’s numbers this season are very similar to Parker’s rookie numbers. Parker believes in Maledon a great deal, even saying that he thinks Maledon should’ve been a top 10 pick.
“The way [Maledon’s former coach] treated [Maledon], it cost him a place in the first round. A player like that should have been in the top 10. I told him he had to be played and to respect the club’s plans.”Tony Parker in an interview with French news outlet L’Equipe.
Thunder GM Sam Presti was instrumental in drafting Tony Parker when he was with the Spurs organization. Now, he has drafted Parker’s protégé in Maledon.
Theo Maledon has more pro experience than most second and third-year players. He has already shown he has a high ceiling with his stellar play in France and has a bright future.
Already Showing Promise with the Thunder
In his rookie season with the Thunder, Maledon is averaging 9.8/3.5/3.4/0.9 on 49.32 TS%. He is currently playing under 28 minutes per game. Although his efficiency can use some work, these are decent numbers for a 19-year-old.
With Shai-Gilgeous Alexander out with an injury, Maledon has been able to develop more as of late. Since the all-star break, he is averaging 12.6/4/3.8.
Maledon has had some impressive games this season. In April against the Suns, he put up 33/5/3 on 78.27 TS% and became the second-youngest Thunder player with 30+ in a game. He also put up 25/5/5 on 63.26 TS% against the Hornets.
From April 2nd to April 7th, Maledon averaged 19.8/4.5/2.5 on 56.4 TS%. April has been Maledon’s best statistical month to date, averaging 12.9/3.8/3.5.
This year, Maledon is top-seven in points, assists, and steals per game among rookies. Considering Maledon was a second-round pick, this is very impressive.
Maledon has also proven himself to be a very gifted passer. He is top 3 in assists per game among rookies and has shown excellent court vision this season. He also has the most assists in a game this season by a rookie, with 12.
Additionally, Maledon’s game will only continue to develop. As time goes by, he will only become more polished and skilled as a player.
Opportunity to Develop
The Thunder are currently rebuilding their franchise. Not only do they have an excellent young core headlined by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, but they have a boatload of draft picks. Maledon is playing with a franchise with an excellent future and has a lot of opportunities to develop. Additionally, Oklahoma City’s front office has produced several MVPs in the past, such as Westbrook, Harden, and Durant. The franchise has a knack for developing young players and may very well be able to bring out Maledon’s full potential.
Theo Maledon also has lots of opportunities as a floor general. He has a tremendous young lob threat in Moses Brown in the frontcourt. Also, he has great shooters around him in Lu Dort, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and Aleksej Pokusevski. As the Thunder acquire more young gems, Maledon will build on his already great playmaking.
In addition to being a great passer, Maledon also has some defensive potential. Along with already averaging about a steal a game, Maledon’s length allows him to defend multiple positions.
Maledon also has the most steals in a game by a rookie this season, with 6. As he becomes a stronger player, his defense will continue to improve. The Thunder also have a defensive-minded coach in Mark Daigneault and an already great young defensive wing in Lu Dort, which will help Maledon.
In conclusion, the Thunder drafted a gem in Theo Maledon. With a solid all-around game, Maledon will have a bright future if utilized and developed correctly. It will be interesting to see Maledon’s growth as a player throughout the years.