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2020 NBA Draft Profiles: Theo Maledon brings defensive versatility to the court

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Could the youngest player to ever play in the French Pro-A League All-Star game be a sleeper that Dallas strikes gold on?

ASVEL v Strasbourg - Leaders Cup 2020 Photo by Herve Bellanger/Icon Sport via Getty Images

There are a handful of international prospects in this draft, but Theo Maledon may be one of the least talked about. While the 19-year-old out of France has shown flashiness both in the open court and around the rim, he’s most known for his defensive abilities. Here’s why Maledon might be a solid fit for the Mavericks and the guy that could give Dallas that defensive boost they need off the bench.

The Specs

Height: 6’5”

Weight: 175

Wingspan: 6’9”

Key Notes

Offense

  • Very skilled in the open floor
  • Good draft age, lots of room for improvement
  • Good size for a guard
  • Not a great 3-point shooter
  • Average free throw shooter
  • Crafty around the rim
  • Lots of finesse, great touch inside
  • Solid pick and roll ball handler
  • Good vision and playmaking ability
  • Complimented for his basketball IQ

Defense

  • Strong on-ball defender
  • Good instincts off the ball
  • Can really only guard 1’s and 2’s
  • Great footwork and quick hips
  • Relentlessness in defensive pressure
  • Lots of potential
  • Great anticipation resulting in easy steals

Active Player Comparisons

If everything goes wrong: Frank Ntilikina

If everything goes right: Young Jeff Teague + size

Most Realistic Outcome: Delon Wright + more playmaking

Stats and Accomplishments

He was also once awarded the MVP in the French Cup finals.

Best Games Last Season

vs. Strasbourg IG

20 points, 7 assists 3 rebounds, 8-12 FGA (67%), 3-4 3FGA (75%)

vs. Panathinaikos

19 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 6-10 FGA (60%), 3-5 3FGA (60%)

vs. JL Bourg-en-Bresse

14 points, 4 assists, 3 rebounds, 3-4 FGA (75%), 7-8 FTA (88%)

3 Key Things

1. The Defensive Upside

Many of the guards in the draft are praised for their offensive abilities, but Theo brings something different to the table: Maledon is widely praised for his on-ball defense.

He has the ability and the physical frame to lock down tough opposing guards. His impressive footwork and 6”9 wingspan both allow him to make plays and get out in transition. He will only be 19 come draft time, and with lots of scouts commenting on how much potential he has defensively, he could be a dependable defensive option given development.

2. Craftiness in the open floor

As the youngest player to ever play in the French Pro-A League All-Star game, Maledon proved why he was selected for that spot with some flashy moments in the game while going up against the other best players in the league. Maledon frequently displays his high IQ and vision in transition where he gets out and pushes the pace, which often results in him making the correct pass to one of his teammates for an easy bucket. He is a perfect example of defense turning into offense.

He runs the floor with confidence and patience and is not afraid to make a difficult pass in order to get his team the best look available. Despite being a very young player in the French Pro-A League, Maledon plays with a level of maturity that allowed him to take on a larger role with his team. The talent is greater in the NBA so things will likely not come as easy for him, however, I still expect Maledon to turn heads with his passing skills and ability to convert around the basket.

3. Room to grow

Defense is his hallmark but at the offensive end, his shooting numbers need work. He shot 33% from the three-point line on 2.5 attempts per game. That’s not terrible but for his defense to make an impact, he’ll need to be a contributor on offense to see time on the court.

If he can put on some more muscle, that will make him even tougher as a defender. Adding muscle will allow him to attack the rim with not just finesse but also with power. He already has a nice touch around the rim, so if he were able to absorb more contact, that would only make things easier for him. For teams that need depth at the guard positions but aren’t necessarily looking for a franchise cornerstone, Theo might just be the guy.

The Checklist

Role with the Mavericks

Drafting someone like Maledon could be great for our back-court depth, particularly when considering the possible changes to the Dallas bench. He could give Dallas some much needed balance in the guard department by bringing some defense. I also believe he could learn a lot from someone like Darrell Armstrong in terms of his offensive development.

We’ve all seen what the Mavericks have done with guys like Maxi Kleber and Dorian Finney-Smith in terms of shooting development, so there’s a track record for players like Maledon. Pair his high basketball IQ with the Dallas development staff andI believe he could become a much more well-rounded player quickly.

Summary

If the Mavs decide to select Theo Maledon with their 18th pick, I will have mixed feelings. While we do need defense, I feel like there are better prospects out there for Dallas. I think the Mavericks need to set their sight on a 3-and-D wing or a defensive-minded big. Selecting someone like Maledon would allow Rick Carlisle to have another tool in his tool box and I am all for that.