Name: Theo Maledon
Measurables: 6’5″, 190 lbs, 6’9″ wingspan
College/International Team: ASVEL, France
Theo Maledon is going to be a bit of a controversial prospect as he’s a French point guard who has never played more than 20 minutes per game in international play. However, he has shined against some stiff competition in EuroLeague veterans and was on pace to win the EuroLeague’s Rising Star award, a prestigious nomination that has been earned by a handful of current NBA players in Luka Doncic, Bogdan Bogdanovic, Ricky Rubio, and Danilo Gallinari. Maledon has an intriguing skillset offensively that teams are going to fall in love with later in the first round. His passing, in particular, is arguably the best in this draft class. Maledon is an elite pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop ball-handler as he finishes at a high rate (57%) around the basket and is an unbelievable passer. He’s cerebral with the ball in his hands and just seems to innately know where all nine other guys are on the floor at all times. Maledon’s patience, precision, and control in his passing is incredibly impressive and he had several highlight-reel passes in European play. His finishing around the rim is also impressive as he utilizes a variety of floaters and runners to score and is a very crafter finisher in the paint.
Maledon’s 3-point shooting is still a work in progress, but he flashed great potential as a long-range shooter both off the catch and off the dribble. Maledon has been mentored by Tony Parker for a handful of years now and you can see the NBA legend’s impact in Maledon’s craftiness and passing touch. Defensively, Maledon has a lot of work to do. His lack of lateral quickness makes it difficult for him to stay in front of faster ball-handlers and he’s very foul-prone at the moment as he averaged 5.58 fouls per 36 minutes. His foul issues were a part of what kept him off the floor for significant stretches in Europe. With Maledon’s physical profile, he should be an above-average defender in spite of his limited athleticism. Maledon also needs to work on his shooting consistency, particularly with his balance, footwork, and rhythm. If he can evolve into a high-level long-range shooter, the game would become much easier for him as he would have more space to abuse defenses his craftiness around the rim and unreal passing. Maledon has some skills that teams covet in the modern NBA and his connection to Tony Parker is the big storyline for him – don’t be shocked if a team at the end of the lottery falls in love with his potential despite this being a strong point guard class.
Gifted passer in pick-and-roll and pick-and-pop, incredible patience and precision
Whips one-handed passes and no-look passes, highlight-reel passer
Most effective when attacking the basket, great at the drive-and-kick game
Cerebral passer, great awareness and anticipation
Great at threading the needle and delivering a pass on-time for the finish
Crafty finisher in the paint when he gets downhill, elite on floaters; shot 57% near the basket
Has worked a ton with Tony Parker and you can see it in his game especially with finishing at the rim
Flashed potential as a shooter, likes shooting 3-pointers off the dribble, can shoot off the catch as well
Shot 36.7% on 2.2 3-point attempts per game in EuroLeague (tough competition)
Needs to improve shooting consistency with balance, footwork, rhythm, etc.
Struggles with confidence in isolation situations, doesn’t have a handle to break down the defense
Not an explosive athlete, lacks lateral quickness
Often plays on his heels on defense, needs to be more locked in to compensate for his limited lateral quickness
Way too prone to fouling, averaged 5.58 fouls per 36 minutes, should be fixable
Only 7 steals and 2 blocks in 22 games, should be more with his height/length
Upped his defensive effort late in close games, flashed high upside
Best Landing Spot
Utah Jazz. The Jazz are in need of an infusion of young, high-upside talent to help them continue to build around Donovan Mitchell and Rudy Gobert. In particular, they could use a point guard of the future as Mike Conley has disappointed in his first season with the team and will turn 33 before the start of next season. Maledon has the passing and shooting that would fit very nicely in the backcourt next to Mitchell, and with his size and length, the two players could guard a variety of perimeter players. The Jazz are a tremendous organization that would offer Maledon the support he needs as he continues to develop.
Worst Landing Spot
Brooklyn Nets. With Spencer Dinwiddie having a player option following the upcoming season which would allow him to become a free agent, you could argue the Nets should be investing in another long-term lead guard. However, this team is in a win-now mindset and is undergoing some rocky times with the current injuries to Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant as well as the current question mark at head coach. This isn’t an organization that can invest in the resources to develop a project at guard and I don’t believe Maledon would get the touches he needs in Brooklyn.
Draft range: mid-first round pick
Basketball IQ: 8. Maledon has an innate feel for the game and the type of on-ball awareness offensively that some veteran guards in the NBA don’t even posses. On defense, Maledon can be very foul-prone and tends to not be locked in often enough, which hurts his score here.
Shooting: 8. If this category was scoring and not shooting, I might bump Maledon down to a 7 due to his limited isolation scoring ability. However, his confidence to shoot 3-pointers off the dribble or off the catch is impressive and he should be an above-average shooter in the NBA.
Passing: 10. When I wrote about LaMelo Ball, I didn’t expect to watch anyone who was on his level in terms of playmaking. However, Maledon might be even better than Ball with the ball in his hands. He is a tremendous decision-maker and is a gifted passer in the pick-and-roll or drive-and-kick game. Maledon has the upside to become one of the best passers in the NBA in the future.
Dribbling: 7. Maledon isn’t a traditional dribble-drive guard and he lacks the athleticism to consistently beat opponents off the dribble. However, his cerebral feel for the game with the ball in his hands allows him to beat defenders with patient and skilled movements rather than explosiveness. He’s a crafty finisher around the hoop.
Hustle: 7. There weren’t really going to be much highlight-reel hustle plays for Maledon with his lack of top-end speed and burst, but he’s a physical, hard-nosed player who plays with a solid motor on both ends of the floor despite his limited athleticism.
Rebounding: 7. With Maledon’s combination of size, length, and awareness, there’s plenty of potential for him to become one of the best rebounders at his position in the NBA. He averaged a career 4.2 rebounds per 36 minutes against tough competition in Europe.
Defense: 6. Maledon has some disturbing defensive tendencies that he needs to work on. He already struggles to stay in front of ball-handlers as he’s usually at a deficit in terms of foot speed, but he also plays too upright and seemed disinterested in defense at times. He needs to work on utilizing his physicality better on the defensive end but at his size, he has the ability to become a player who can guard multiple positions.
Leadership: 7. Maledon was never asked to be a leader in Europe as he played on teams with several veteran players several years his senior. However, there’s something to be said for the level of professionalism in the sport he has already experienced and he has the ability to become a leader on and off the court with his playmaking status and great intangibles.
Athleticism: 6. He won’t make the list for the top athletes in this class as his lack of speed and quickness are glaring on film. Maledon’s skill, size, and finesse all help compensate for his lack of athleticism, but at the end of the day this is a significant factor in his future ceiling as a pro.
Upside: 8. Maledon’s upside is likely that of a very good starter in the NBA, a player who contributes on both ends of the floor and is a key member of a winning team. However, I don’t see him as having any sort of All-Star potential due to his lack of isolation scoring and lateral quickness. If he can play more physically on defense and translate his elite pick-and-roll ability, he’ll be a valuable part of any team’s rotation.
Total rating: 74/100
Theo Maledon NBA Comparison
Maledon reminds me quite a bit of Malcolm Brogdon on film with the way he uses his size and length to get into the paint on offense despite limited burst. Maledon can learn from Brogdon’s great utilization of his physical frame as he’s become a valuable starter on multiple playoff teams. However, with Maledon’s playmaking ability and crafty finishing inside, he reminds me more of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. SGA is likely a faster player and better athlete than Maledon, but they have a lot of the same finesse attributes. Maledon’s ability to run the pick-and-roll and whip one-handed passes to open players is more reminiscent of current Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball. Finally, the baseline for Maledon is likely as a high-level bench combo guard who can shoot, pass, and defend – someone like Delon Wright.
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