In more ways than one, Makur Maker is somewhat of a throwback in the NBA Draft process.
And yes, there is a certain irony to that statement.
Describing Maker, who worked out for the Utah Jazz on Thursday, as even adjacent to a throwback would have been laughable two years ago. Back then, he represented everything new about the sport — the prototypical one-and-done player who bucked every trend by going to Howard University.
But then COVID-19 hit, and then the injury bug bit, and now Maker is just entering the NBA Draft process nearly two years later. He is 21 years old, borderline ancient by the absurd standards of the NBA draft. And he is coming off the experience of playing professionally in Australia.
So much for the unproven five-star with talent. Now he is the older, experienced guy trying to break into the league.
“I think going to [Australia] has helped me grow as a player and as a person,” Maker said, embracing his maturity now. “I got hurt and I got a chance to watch on the sidelines and watch my competition. And that gave me a chance to know my skill.”
Maker worked out for the Jazz on Thursday, headlining a group of players who were all quite experienced by the standards of the NBA Draft. It continues the Jazz’s push to find back-end talent that could contribute immediately if asked.
Kyler Edwards, the journeyman point guard from Houston, worked out with the team. So too did four-year college stars like Gabe Brown of Michigan State, Tyrese Martin of UConn, Jacob Gilyard of Richmond and JD Notae of Arkansas.
The common theme among all of them is plenty of games at the highest level. Edwards played in the national championship game as a freshman at Texas Tech before transferring to Houston. There, he made a run to the Elite Eight.
Brown played in the Final Four that same year, before getting knocked out by Edwards’ Red Raiders. And Gilyard is a fifth-year senior who led Richmond to a surprising NCAA Tournament bid over Davidson this year.
Even Martin is a college basketball lifer. He spent two years at Rhode Island before transferring to UConn. He made two NCAA Tournament appearances and was part of multiple runs in the Big East Tournament.
It would make sense the Jazz have brought in experience. Bart Taylor, who serves in the dual role of Jazz Vice President of Pro Personnel and Salt Lake City Stars General Manager, has been open about looking for back-end talent that can fill out the roster.
None of these players are locks to be drafted. But their track record suggests they could be serviceable in the right role. Makur’s size makes him an option to play both front court positions. He’s comfortable defending both the four and five and occasionally pop out to hit a jump shot.
And Edwards, Gilyard, Notae and Martin have all earned the reputation as elite perimeter defenders with occasional offense. Martin in particular has turned heads after showing an improved shooting ability at the G-League training camp this summer.
“I can take things from [guys in the league] and go help an NBA team,” Martin said. “... Going into these camps I just go in with the mentality that I was the best player.”