Growing up in Tony Parker’s home town, playing for Parker’s team, and being mentored by the four-time NBA Finals champion, Theo Maledon is looking to make his own name on the worldwide stage of the NBA. Theo (pronounced Tay-Oh) has had a highly successful young career, winning MVP awards, FIBA Gold Medals, and French Cup titles. He has played with the French National Team, and even trained with the Utah Jazz’ own Rudy Gobert.
Theo Maledon's final preparation before the draft. An NBA team is going to get a very strong and athletic young PG. Theo has an advanced training age compared to most players in his draft class due to his background in France and unusual dedication to physical development. pic.twitter.com/WtjdOTjbVH— P3 (@P3sportscience) November 9, 2020
Measurements: 19 years old, 6’5” with a 6’8.75” wingspan, 187 pounds, 2.8% body fat
Per game: 7.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 0.3 steals, 0.1 blocks, 1.9 turnovers, 45.6/36.7/68.9 shooting splits
Per 36: 15.1 points, 3.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 0.6 steals, 0.2 blocks, 3.8 turnovers
Theo has an extremely polished offensive game, especially for a 19 year old. He has shown both high level scoring ability, and high level creation for teammates, in the pick and roll. Possessing a smooth jump shot that has to be respected, Theo fires away with confidence when defenders go under the screen. When the defense goes over, he snakes around and uses the “hostage dribble” to create space, a move that Jazz fans are used to seeing from Joe Ingles. When the big man steps up to hedge or trap Maledon, he is able to find passing lanes to the roll man or shooters. Theo can pull up for jumpers or floaters against drop coverage, both of which has shown proficiency with, or he can attack the basket.
Maledon’s 6’5” body is advanced physically for a player his age. He is committed to being in the best shape he can be. This is evident by his Draft Combine best 2.8% body fat. Theo has good size for a point guard, and he uses it well to draw contact at the rim. He makes the most of his trips to the foul line, shooting an average of 82% from the line over his career.
The intelligence with which Theo plays is displayed by his decision making and passing ability. He can read a defense and has the potential to become a true floor general. Using the threat of his jump shot, he draws extra defenders to him, then he throws quick passes to the open man. Maledon plays at his own pace, showcasing patience which helps him create passing lanes that others don’t wait for.
While the young point guard may impress you with his physical shape and skill set, he will not stand out athletically among his draft class. His vertical jump and his first step won’t jump off the screen to viewers. He is somewhat skinny, and doesn’t display much strength on the court. His height and length will help him, but he still may be overpowered by bigger guards in the NBA.
Theo’s defense at this point is raw. In France, he often got lost on defense because he gambled too far or lost focus. He is prone to foul too often, which may hurt his ability to stay on the floor. He has the physical tools and basketball IQ to be a plus defender, but I wouldn’t count on that being the case right off the bat.
French point guard Theo Maledon says he interviewed with the Jazz’s front office via Zoom, and then spoke afterward with the team’s sports psychologist. Said he feels like playing alongside a fellow Frenchman like Rudy Gobert would help his transition to the NBA.— Eric Walden (@tribjazz) November 12, 2020
The Jazz are currently stacked at the lead guard position, with Mike Conley, Donovan Mitchell, and likely Jordan Clarkson all on the roster. Although, Clarkson is a free agent currently, and Conley will be a free agent next off-season, so these spots are not by any means guaranteed in the long run. If the Jazz plan to let Conley go after his contract expires, or if they would like a third point guard, Maledon could make sense. If he was drafted by the Jazz, don’t expect him to play big minutes during his rookie season. As Emmanuel Mudiay can attest, there just won’t be enough minutes for another ball dominant guard on this current Jazz roster.
Thinking past the 2020-21 season, Maledon’s fit with the Jazz is intriguing. A big guard who likes to share the ball, and can spot up effectively off-ball, is the perfect back-court partner for Donovan Mitchell. Theo has connections with Rudy Gobert, and has shown the ability to work well with rim-running bigs. Being a ball mover, an effective outside shooter, and a smart player overall, it’s hard to find a team with which Theo would not fit.
Theo is an promising young player. A player with a high floor, and respectable ceiling. While a wing may make more sense for the current iteration of the Utah Jazz, I am confident that whichever team ends up drafting Theo Maledon will feel good about their choice.
Stats from Basketball Reference. Measurements from NBA.com.