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2020 NBA Draft scouting report: Theo Maledon (Part 2)

LDLC Asvel Villeurbanne v Valencia Basket - Turkish Airlines EuroLeague Photo by Romain Biard/Euroleague Basketball via Getty Images

If you missed anything from Part 1 of our Theo Maledon scouting report, please click here.


After evaluating Maledon’s offense, it is time to look at his defense, and it is this end of the floor that probably leaves something to be desired. That being said, Maledon has the potential and is able to impose himself on occasion.

Starting off with something simple, Maledon occasionally picks up/extends the defensive pressure and he can do this to solid effect.

Here, Maledon picks up the ball-handler full court and continues to extend the pressure once he crosses mid-court. Eventually, after continual pressure from Maledon, the pass is required for the offense to carry on:

On this possession, Maledon again picks up his man just inside his own half, loses a little ground between the screen and the change of direction on the dribble but the ASVEL backline does enough to force a pass to the perimeter. When the ball is returned, Maledon springs into action, pressing his man tightly before being forced to switch after the screen, and between Maledon and Payne, they mess up the coverage on the switch and the three-pointer is made after the kick-back:

Again, at the end of the first quarter, Maledon’s defensive pressure creates a problem for Real Madrid, who find themselves genuinely stuck on this last offensive possession of the quarter and forced to pass:

Maledon’s size and length means that he has the potential to guard both 1’s and 2’s and switch onto either guard position. From what I watched at least, Lyon didn’t really switch a ton, not with Maledon anyways.

On this possession however, Maledon initially begins the defensive stance off of the ball. When the screen comes, Maledon switches onto the ball handler, Facundo Campazzo and when the screen from Tavares comes, Maledon switches onto him. When the third screen of the possession comes up top, Maledon is out quick onto it and contests the three-point attempt from Campazzo, which is missed:

Maledon is capable of contesting shots well, such as on this possession despite going under the screen:

Maledon also shows a flash or two of defending off of the dribble, as he successfully prevents the penetration on this possession and drive:

Maledon has quite a bit of work to do defensively — his defensive highlights isn’t exactly a library of plays.

Fouls are a bit of a problem for Maledon right now, committing 2.6 a game.

Fouls like this, off of the ball on the inbounds can’t happen:

Out front, Maledon commits the foul even before the drive gets going:

Again, Maledon is called for the foul on the reach:

To start, Maledon extends good pressure on the ball-handler before the ball is passed off but eventually commits the foul (to give, to be fair) on the drive from the three-point line:

Again, Maledon’s initial defense is strong but he gets baited into jumping on the fake, committing the foul on the shot, leading to free throws:

This foul is a bit more understandable but I want to show it anyway.

Maledon starts this defensive possession off of the ball and as the hand-off and the screen occur, Maledon initially goes with the ball-handler before rushing to the roll-man on the perimeter. Nice coverage but then Maledon’s size disadvantage is exploited in the post and Maledon commits the foul:

Maledon is a mature player for his age offensively but defensively he immaturity is a little easier to detect, and it’s easy to target a young defender who shows signs of vulnerability.

When Lyon played Fenerbahce, the Turkish side were pretty intentional about running Maledon through the pick-and-roll from the offset — this had a mixed result.

This was the first offensive set run by Fenerbahce:

Slightly unfair to pin all of the blame on Maledon here — and it was the second chance that was converted, not the first — but his indecisiveness here doesn’t help.

The next occasion Fenerbahce put Maledon through the pick-and-roll, Maledon was much more up to the task off of the dribble, sticking with the ball-handler and in place to contest the shot inside:

Let’s land this one, shall we?

Theo Maledon and Leandro Bolmaro — profiled here — are going to be prospects that are going to be compared with one another (and if the mocks are to be taken into account, they’re going to be selected close to one another too).

They’re both young guards who play on strong teams, EuroLeague teams, who served in backup capacities and did so admirably in the EuroLeague too in those roles.

Offensively, Maledon doesn’t bite off more than he can chew. His offensive game I wouldn’t say is especially diverse but the strengths he does play to — pick-and-roll offense, his runners/floaters, his decent shooting percentages — he plays to those well and doesn’t divert too much from those.

And that’s OK right now — Maledon just turned 19 years old and it takes maturity to know what you are and what you’re not offensively. He’s not a giant-beater right now. He does struggle for some burst, he’s not the most explosive athlete and that hurts when it comes to creating some of his own offense off of the dribble.

Right now, his shooting percentages across the board are solid for his age and the competition he has played against, especially in the Euroleague — honestly, I’d look past his averages in the French domestic league and focus more on his Euroleague averages and what he was able to accomplish there because to do that at that age, on a team that wasn’t as talented as the other Euroleague teams, was hugely impressive.

I would’ve loved to have seen what Maledon could’ve done — across the board — in, an average of something like 25 minutes a game but alas... We don’t always get what we want (certainly, the scouts wanted to see 25 minutes a game)

As Maledon gets older, his explosiveness/quickness off of the dribble I think will improve. It’s not as though Maledon can’t beat the defender off of the dribble right now but in the NBA, against longer and quicker defenders, I think he will struggle to do that starting off. His decision-making when that drive is cut off will need to improve a little, and a calmness is required in those scenarios.

In terms of playmaking, I liked what I saw from Maledon. I think his feel for the game is solid (maybe not as much and Bolmaro) and he’s very capable in the pick-and-roll offensively — he’s unlucky that many shots he generated were missed. He was strong at generating three-point attempts for teammates — again, in the pick-and-roll, less so off of the dribble.

Defensively is where Maledon falls behind a little bit. He’s a little too foul prone right now, a little easily beaten off of the dribble at times (again, his quickness is questioned at times) and someone who teams can target in pick-and-roll. His inexperience is, naturally, exploited and evident at times.

But Maledon is willing and he will try, and that — in addition to his size and his wingspan — is promise enough that Maledon could become a plus as an individual defender.

In terms of where Maledon may land in the draft, he was initially projected in the lottery but has slid down the board over the summer. ESPN list Maledon 17th in their ‘Best Available’ list (four spots ahead of Bolmaro).

Jonathan Givony had a few things to say about Maledon as he listed his strengths.

- Excellent size for a point guard at 6-foot-5. Has a good frame and a long wingspan, which will allow him to defend point guards, shooting guards and potentially even small forwards.

- Career 36% 3-point and 79% free throw shooter. Has clean, compact shooting mechanics. Capable both with his feet set and off the dribble, even if he’s been inconsistent at times.

- Efficient player who keeps mistakes to a minimum and plays with impressive poise. Arguably the most experienced player in the draft in terms of the minutes he’s received against quality competition. Draws rave reviews for his work ethic and approach to the game.

For the sake of transparency, I’m only reading what Givony has written as I finish this report — for the reason that I lean on my own understanding and build my own views and thoughts from scratch — and it’s always reaffirming when the things you have seen are similar to what the experts are saying.

Just to touch upon what Givony has said, Maledon is someone who doesn’t play recklessly and plays maturely for his age (as we’ve touched upon). Givony also talks about how his frame and wingspan will allow Maledon to defend multiple positions

We’ll talk about the work ethic in a second, but Givony also listed perceived weaknesses for Maledon:

- Didn’t play a huge role for ASVEL as one of three point guards on the roster. Started some games, but only averaged 17 MPG. Often operates alongside a lead guard in more of a spot-up role. Wasn’t too efficient this season, posting a high turnover rate and average shooting percentages.
- Lacks a level of aggressiveness. Just an average athlete in terms of pure speed and shiftiness. Looks too focused at times on minimizing mistakes. Will likely be best suited operating alongside a scoring guard who can shoulder the bulk of the shot-creation responsibilities, at least early in his career.
- Career 48% 2-point shooter, partially due to lack of strength but also because of his lack of explosiveness and methodical style of play. Relies heavily on craft and touch shots. Gets caught up on screens and struggles with the physicality of handling switches.

We talked about the turnovers and looked at how some of those came to be, and we’ve talked about how Maledon isn’t the most explosiveness athlete in the world and his lack of speed on both ends. I think Givony is a little harsh on Maledon’s two-point percentage given his age and the level of competition, but that’s just me.

Again for the sake of transparency, I’m adding the physical side of things here since I hadn’t added it before reading what Givony had said. Maledon will obviously need to add some muscle, especially if he’s hoping to defend 1’s, 2’s and as Givony has suggested, even 3’s (meh, not really sure how I feel about the idea of Maledon guarding threes right now).

Sports Illustrated recently mocked Maledon to the Mavericks at No. 18 overall, with Jeremy Woo saying this about Maledon and the fit with the Dallas Mavericks.

A disappointing season hurt his stock, but Maledon’s range has solidified pretty squarely in the mid to late first round, with teams still intrigued by his speed, size, and work ethic in a role-player context. He lacks an elite skill, but can shoot a little and make some plays situationally right now, and wasn’t afforded the type of schematic freedom that might help a guard with his type of tools. In this part of the draft, that’s a feasible path to take, and Maledon could be the right type of utility piece in the backcourt here, capable of playing next to Luka Doncic or helping lead bench units as a big combo guard. The Mavericks are competitive and in a good spot financially with their key pieces for the next couple seasons, and should be thinking long-term with this selection.

The Athletic, on the other hand, project Maledon to the Milwaukee Bucks with the No. 19 overall pick, and Sam Vecenie had this to say about the young Frenchman.

Here, I’ve gone Maledon. Maledon came on a bit for ASVEL late, finally getting over a shoulder injury that nagged him earlier in the season. A wiry 6-foot-4 combo guard, he has good speed on the ground even if he’s not particularly explosive vertically. He also has good length that should allow him to guard multiple positions. That he’s carved out a role for a solid Euroleague team is impressive for an 18-year-old, especially with him having dealt with some adversity because of injury this year. He averaged 7.3 points, 1.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists while also posting relatively efficient shooting numbers in Euroleague competition. He’s a smart player, and considered to have terrific work ethic that should allow him to reach whatever his ceiling is.

The fact he is considered to have ‘a terrific work ethic’ is a fantastic piece of information to have and a fact that won’t be wasted on scouts. This isn’t exclusive to basketball, but there is no limit to what someone can achieve when they have the correct work ethic, the dedication to the craft and the improvement of that craft.

We’ve talked about some of Maledon’s shortcomings (more so defensively) and I don’t feel too concerned for him that he’ll figure it out and improve to where he should be: a solid defender who can guard multiple positions. If he applies himself as people say he does, I’m not concerned long-term.

It’s so tough to place a ceiling on a player (it’s why the GM’s are paid the big bucks to try and get it right) but I’m going to attempt to do so — and I’m always happy to be wrong when it comes to this.

I think Bolmaro is a better player right now than Maledon, and I think Bolmaro has more of an impact on winning than Maledon does at present. Part of me believes, though, that Maledon’s ceiling is higher than Bolmaro’s, and that the Frenchman will be a better NBA player.

However, I project both Maledon and Bolmaro to be backup guards and secondary creators on the floor, and if either of them end up in a starting lineup on a playoff team, that would be a fantastic end result.

I don’t think it’s going to make a difference to the Atlanta Hawks, though, because unless Travis Schlenk decides to trade down and package a few picks together in exchange for their highest pick, Maledon probably isn’t really going to be on their radar in the top eight...