MILWAUKEE-- Timberwolves and Celtics legend, Kevin Garnett, has been frequently spotted at the Milwaukee Bucks practice area over the last few weeks, and after a few sessions, he has MVP hopes for one young Buck.
"Thon [Maker] is going to be the MVP of the league one day. Mark it down," Garnett told Bleacher Report in a one-on-one interview . "He has the bones. He has the appetite to be able to chase something like that."
Perhaps the most interesting thing about Garnett's comments, when asked about emerging star, Joel Embiid, he only said the sky is the limit, MVP never crossed his lips.
Now in his second season in the NBA, Maker, a 20-year-old center from South Sudan, is averaging 4.5 points, 3 rebounds and 18 minutes per game for the 8-7 Bucks.
Pair that with his disappointing shooting numbers, 37 field goal percent and 32 3-point percent, and it's not the leap most evaluators were expecting him to take following his breakout this Spring. In fact, it's more of a step back.
Last season, Maker averaged 4 points and 2 rebounds in just nine minutes per game, and he was a much more effective shooter, knocking down 46 percent from the floor, and 37 percent from 3-point range.
Kevin Garnett here at Bucks practice working with Thon Maker. pic.twitter.com/Pa5CHowbwn
— Matt Velazquez (@Matt_Velazquez) November 14, 2017
While the on-court numbers might be a far cry from what most teams expect from a top 10 pick, Maker's path to the NBA is different than most.
As a child , he bounced around from Sudan to Uganda to Australia, and initially, was interested in soccer. But he eventually found a home in basketball and in the Americas.
After excelling at Athlete Institute Academy in Mono, Canada, he shocked the NBA by not opting to go to college. Instead, he immediately classified for the draft. and entering the NBA as a lanky, 7'1" nineteen-year-old. Maker had an immediate connection to Garnett.
"[He] reminds me a lot of myself. He loves the game," Garnett said. "He's a young, exuberant, athlete who has a lot of tools."
Garnett also entered the NBA without playing any college basketball after he was drafted fifth overall by the Timberwolves in 1995 NBA draft out of Farragut Career Academy in Chicago, and his aggressive, in-your-face attitude blossomed into instant success.
For Maker, that success has been harder to come by, but that doesn't mean it will never come.
During his rookie season, Garnett averaged 28 minutes a game , which jumped to almost 39 in his second year, and as one of the only legitimate talents on the T'wolves, he was forced to play a larger role. However, Maker, on a talented Bucks team, can sit back, develop and blossom into the star the Garnett predicts.
"Anytime a legend comes and works with you, it's building confidence," Bucks veteran, Jason Terry, said earlier this year . "It's more [building] mentally when you have a mentor like KG."
This isn't the first young big man Garnett has mentored. Before retiring with the Timberwolves following the 2015-2016 season, he worked with then-rookie Karl-Anthony Towns. Now in his third season, Towns is averaging 20 points, 11 rebounds and shooting 59 percent from the field. Plus, his 3-point percentage is a career high 38 percent.
The Bucks can only hope Maker takes the next step like Towns and their lottery ticket first round draft pick from 2013, Giannis Antetokounmpo.
"I see a guy that is like me, with the hunger to get better," Antetokounmpo said last spring . "Everybody's got down moments. He’s got down moments, but you will see him the next day trying to get better."