That name will obviously strike a chord with Atlanta Hawks fans, but it has meaning here, I promise. Doncic is the only player in the last decade who has started the majority of games in the Euroleague as an 18 year old.
Theo Maledon has now entered that same conversation.
After turning 19 years old in June, French guard Theo Maledon is throwing his hat into the NBA Draft ring after spending the last three seasons with ASVEL Lyon — partly owned by Tony Parker — in the LNB Pro A (or, for sponsorship reasons, Jeep Elite) in France.
While Maledon’s minutes remained largely the same from last season the key difference this season is that Maledon received some Euroleague burn, starting 12 of 22 games and averaged more minutes per game in the Euroleague than he did domestically, per RealGM.
For the season, Maledon averaged 7.2 points on 42% shooting from the field on 5.6 field goal attempts, 33% from three-point range on 2.5 attempts, and 77.6% from the free throw line on 2.1 attempts per game. From there, he produced 2.7 assists, 1.9 rebounds, 1.6 turnovers, and 2.7 fouls in an average of 17 minutes per game in 46 appearances across all competitions, again, per RealGM.
There is not a ton to unpack here when it comes to just looking at the stats, really — not a ton of shots, some average percentages shooting the ball across all competitions, not a very high assist/turnover ratio and a little bit of foul trouble in a limited role.
What is important here is the way Maledon goes about it and the competition he does it against — in fact, Maledon’s averages were, for the most part, better across the entire board in the Euroleague versus the French domestic league.
Seeing as the level of competition in the Euroleague is quite a bit higher than the French domestic league, it’s interesting to see the difference in percentages here and how Maledon has performed better in the Euroleague than he did domestically.
There’s a few conflicting accounts of his height, but ESPN has Maledon listed as 6 foot 5 and with a 6 foot 9 wingspan, so that’s good enough for me to go with.
He plays either guard position, taking different stints on and off of the ball offensively.
The majority of the film we’re going to look at today with Maledon is going to come from the Euroleague — just easier for context’s sake (as well as being much easier to find) and grading Maledon against what he was able to do against a higher level of opponent.
With that said, let’s dive in. As always, I am no expert at this. I look at the film (as much as I can find), write and show what I see, and you can go from there. Maledon also wears No. 6.
Overall, I wouldn’t say Maledon has one particular skill on offense that you’d say is top class — it’s all-rounded game which is obviously still developing. Let’s take a look at it.
I enjoyed some of Maledon’s work inside of the paint/on the move, so we’ll start there.
On the out of bounds play, pick-and-roll, Maledon uses his length to finish over the multiple stretched arms attempting to thwart him as he drives inside to the rim:
This 6-9 wingspan at 6-5 really does help Maledon out as, again, he is undeterred to the length thrown at him, as he rejects the screen and hits the runner:
Edy Tavares is a big man, as Hawks fans know, and he has swatted tons of shots like this in Europe. But Maledon was able to finish here, and his move to get to the rim was impressive too.
Off of the out-of-bounds play once again, Maledon receives the screen which puts defender Fabien Casseur behind him. As Maledon’s path to the rim is blocked off by the defending big from the pick-and-roll, Felipe Reyes, Maledon is forced to stop, giving Casseur an opportunity to get back in front. As he does, Maledon fakes and ducks in, which sheds Casseur and Maledon hits the floater:
Coming off of the screen, Maledon does a nice job to shift up a gear (not up the gears, but just a gear) to get to the rim and finish, despite the presence of Tavares:
I’m not quite sure how this shot isn’t blocked with the behemoth that Edy Tavares right there on this drive... how has Maledon got that away? I have no idea...
Off of the screen, Maledon feels the defense behind him and a quick step to his right escapes the pick-and-roll defender as Maledon flips up a shot that finds the net, plus the foul:
This is just a poised play, a mature play (which describes Maledon himself, as a whole, very well). There’s no explosion of speed but there doesn’t need to be — a nice deliverance of the step on this occasion.
Initially on this pick-and-roll, there’s no way through for Maledon but after a reset — and this time guarded by Gigi Datome — a fake behind the three-point line is enough to wrong-foot the Italian and Maledon drives by and finishes with the dunk at the rim:
Off of the screen, Maledon heads to his left, cuts back into the paint from the free throw line extended, gets to the danger-zone far too easily and hits the runner:
I’m sure by now you’ve gotten an idea of how Maledon operates inside the three-point line: it is a lot of runners/floaters, and he’s good at them.
Maledon shot 51% from two-point territory in the Euroleague, so his efficiency and effective inside is clear to see — again, hugely impressive in Europe’s top competition at the age of 18 (at the time).
Let’s look outside of the three-point line, and some of the ways Maledon gets his looks from there (we’ll look at makes and misses).
For the season, Maledon shot 33% from three but shot a more encouraging 36% in Euroleague (though, shot 28% from three in the French domestic league).
From the wing, Maledon comes off of the screen and, off of the dribble, rises into a three-point attempt, which is offline on this occasion:
After the ball is claimed after an offensive rebounds, ASVEL work the ball, eventually ending up in the hands of Maledon for a catch-and-shoot three:
Another catch-and-shoot scenario, this one arriving as the ball is kicked out to Maledon. Again, however, Maledon is off the mark:
After Strasbourg commit the turnover at half-court, ASVEL are quick to respond, as Maledon fills the space in the corner, receives the ball and hits the corner three:
In the footage of Maledon I was able to see, he actually didn’t hit a lot of three-pointers but you can see some of the scenarios the attempts came in. It’s also worth a reminder that there’s not a ton of volume to be found here, an average of 2.5 across all competitions — a few off of the dribble coming off of screens, a few in catch-and-shoot scenarios, a few perhaps in transition. I wouldn’t say Maledon can break down a defender one-on-one and pull up into a three-pointer that way.
In essence, Maledon’s offensive game in terms of scoring is actually pretty simple — again, he averages just 5.6 field goal attempts a game in total and 2.5 of them, as we’ve talked about, are three-pointers. What he may lack in diversity, he makes up for in efficiency. The few things he does, he does well.
Maledon does have offensive flaws, though, and there is plenty to explore elsewhere.
Maledon has to rely on a lot of pick-and-roll to create separation — it can be difficult for him to best defenders off of the dribble.
Even on the switch here, Maledon isn’t able to drive by and his pass to the corner is too predictable, resulting in a turnover:
At times, Maledon can get a little flustered when he’s cut off by the defense and the second decision has to come.
On the drive from the three-point line after the pass, Maledon gets towards the rim but is cut-off by the defender, forcing Maledon to make the pass behind him but his intentions are intercepted, resulting in a turnover:
Again, Maledon’s path to the rim is cut-off, meaning he Frenchman has to kill his dribble in the restricted area and he frantically searches for an option to pass to but commits the traveling violation in the process:
Something Maledon could stand to work on in these scenarios, if he’s unable to break an opponent down/collapse the defense off of the dribble is his ability to stop on a dime and maybe hit a quick jump shot.
He attempts to do this on this possession, but is a little slow in getting into the shot having done a solid job slamming on the brakes:
I believe in Maledon’s ability to make some mid-range shots but he’s got to obviously set himself correctly when doing so off of the dribble like this.
Obviously a bit of a different scenario, but this is how it looks when Maledon comes off of a screen and hits the free throw line J:
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t say Maledon takes ill-advised or poor shots (though, the low volume I think plays some part in that and perhaps you don’t see more). The only shot I really saw where I thought, ‘Eh, probably shouldn’t have taken that’ was this attempt, as he tries to lay this one in from a difficult angle while not being able to even see the ball:
From a playmaking standpoint, Maledon averaged 2.7 assists across all competitions and an assist to turnover ratio of 1.6. We’ll look at the attempts that Maledon helped created, regardless if it was a make or miss.
After mishandling the ball, Maledon comes off of a screen, drives, draws the attention of the defense before whipping a pass to the corner for the three-point attempt:
Here, Maledon rejects the screen, draws Tavares’ attention and finds his teammate on the weak-side for a three-point attempt:
After a miss, Maledon grabs the rebound and pushes in transition, draws the attention of the three Real Madrid defenders before passing it to the corner for a three-point attempt which is missed:
On the switch from the screen Maledon makes a nice read and spots the man in the corner on the weak-side, leading to a three-point attempt:
On the switch in transition on the screen, Maledon takes the defender off of the dribble, gets by and into the paint, draws a crowd and fires the ball back out to his teammate for a three-pointer:
Off of the miss, the ball lands in the lap of Maledon, who breaks in transition, whips out a nice little whip to elude the defender and makes a nice pass to the corner, where the extra pass is made and the three is made:
Up top, Maledon receives the screen, works his way into the paint, diverts the defense and shows his awareness of his surroundings as he throws a left-handed pass to the near corner for the made three-pointer:
You can see that Maledon creates quite a number of three-point opportunities and he’s been unlucky a number of these have been missed, from an assist point of view.
Let’s move onto other playmaking aspects of Maledon’s game, and these will be a little more general than specific.
Heading down the court, Maledon receives the drag screen, gets into the paint, draws the defense which allows a hole to open up and Maledon slips a bounce-pass at the rim for the assist:
This time, Maledon rejects the screen, gets inside, draws the attention of the defending big and finds Livio Jean-Charles behind him for the jump shot:
Later that same game, another similar situation arises and Maledon connects with Jean-Charles out of the pick-and-roll for the made jump shot:
On this play, Maledon himself doesn’t use the screen but the screen is set and after the screened player gets back, he falls asleep, allowing the screener to cut to the rim. Maledon finds him with the bounce-pass in the gap and gets the assist on the made basket:
On this possession, Adreian Payne slips the pick-and-roll and Maledon delivers a left-handed bounce-pass as Payne rolls to the rim for the bucket:
On the out-of-bounds play, Maledon again sees a pick in front of him that is slipped, probes in the paint, draws the pick-and-roll big and tosses a lob for the alley-oop:
Maledon averages 1.6 turnovers with a turnover percentage of 19.7% across all competitions. Let’s look at a few, just to get an eye in.
On the drive from the three-point line, Maledon gets near the rim and his pass to a teammate in the paint is intercepted and Fenerbahce come away with the ball:
On this play on the pick-and-roll, the misunderstanding from Maledon and the roller leads to the turnover on this possession:
Here, Maledon tries to take the defender off of the dribble but when that fails, he tries to make the pass to the corner but has his pass intercepted, resulting in a turnover: