How Was Thon Maker Declared Eligible for the NBA Draft?

Ryan Glasspiegel

Thon Maker has been declared eligible for the NBA Draft, as ESPN’s Chad Ford was first to report. Maker is a seven-foot forward who was born in South Sudan, later moved to Australia, and came to America in eighth grade. He has spent the last two years playing for Orangeville Prep in Canada. He projects as a mid to late first round pick.

When Maker declared for the NBA Draft earlier this month, there was chatter about whether or not he would be eligible. NBA rules stipulate that you must be 19 years old, and be one year out of high school. Having spent five seasons playing basketball in North America, Maker, who is 19, was nominally a high school senior this year.

On April 4th, ESPN’s Jeff Borzello wrote:

"Maker’s case for eligibility would come down to convincing the NBA that he was a member of the 2015 class and decided to do a post-graduate year."

Per Ford, the NBA ruled that Maker was indeed “one year removed from graduating high school.”

The system is really odd. On one hand, it would seem on the face of it that restricting anybody who is 18 from playing in the NBA, if a team would have him, is restraint of trade. The “If you can die for your country …” argument applies. On the other, in the mid-oughts it felt anecdotally that too many players were making the jump from high school.

Almost none of them – even the ones who went on to great success – were big assets immediately, and teams that were at the bottom of the NBA standings were not improving themselves right away with these picks based on upside potential. It may even be better for the sport’s consumers, in both college and the pros, if there were a two-year waiting period, but this is unpalatable due to the indentured servitude status that especially affects star players in the NCAA.

As far as Maker goes, there could be worry that this ruling in his favor will set up the floodgates for more players to try to jump straight from high school, but the NBA presumably did its due diligence in enabling this case.