Analyzing Makur Maker in Game 1 of the 2022 NBL Finals
May 13th, 2022
By Alan Lu
Recently, the Sydney Kings were crowned the 2022 NBL champions, and their prized prospect, 6-11 center Makur Maker is currently eligible to be selected in the 2022 NBA Draft. Therefore, I decided to take the time to watch him play in Game 1 of the 2022 NBL Finals against Tasmania that was played on May 6th, with thanks to YouTube via National Basketball League. This was a game that seemed to represent what Maker did on average in the NBL Finals this year. This also presented an opportunity to watch Sydney’s 6-6, 2001-born swingman Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, who is now a 3-time NBL champion, and was a starter in this year’s Sydney Kings squad. Here are my thoughts on how Makur Maker played, as well as how his game may translate to the NBA.
Makur Maker is an athletic, skilled big man that is Sydney’s backup center, and he has been getting key rotation minutes on their team this year. He had his ups and downs in this game, but he was able to make hustle plays on both ends of the floor.
Maker showed a solid ability to score in the post. He used a behind the back dribble to get to the block, and he then managed to score on a right-handed, jump hook. He also thrived at scoring on hustle plays. He caught a lob off of a backdoor cut, and then drew free throws on a dunk attempt. He also ran in to score on a tip-in after grabbing an offensive board late in this match.
On the downside, he missed on both of his three-point attempts. He seemed to have a slow release when taking threes, which would enable his defenders to close out more quickly on them than otherwise. He also was fairly turnover prone on offense. On one good play, Maker was able to pass out of the post. However, he can tend to be careless with the ball on offense. When pushing the ball up the court, he threw an inaccurate lead pass that sailed out of bounds. When handling it another time, he was called for a traveling violation.
Also, Maker did a good job of rebounding the basketball. He was able to haul in boards on both sides of the ball, and sometimes he would push the ball quickly up the floor after getting defensive boards. Plus, he also played adequate defense in this game. Maker was able to jump on a loose ball to get a steal. He also would often rotate to contest drives to force misses. He also managed to stay in front of an opposing ball handler when defending a drive, and indirectly helped force a ball-handling turnover. On the downside, he wouldn’t effectively communicate to his teammates on how they should defend in screen situations, and it would lead his team to give up three-point baskets. He would sometimes be late to get out on shooters and give up too much space to shooters. Another time, he got beat off the dribble when defending a baseline drive, which led him to commit a foul and allow the score that time.
Overall, Makur Maker had a fairly solid year after initially really struggling to start the season. He shot the ball much better as the season progressed, and he was able to keep his rotation spot and also help his team win the 2022 NBL title. He will need to be a more consistent shooter in games, and he will need to be a more focused player on both sides of the ball. Still, he is a talented prospect that could be an intriguing option for NBA teams to consider in the mid to late second round range of the 2022 draft, and he could project into a backup center role in the NBA.
Wani Swaka Lo Buluk is an athletic, energetic swingman that mainly seems to operate as a low usage, defensive specialist for his team when he is on the court. He doesn’t take many shots in games, and he isn’t really a floor spacer, but he is a tenacious on-ball defender that competes relentlessly when he is on the floor.
Swaka Lo Buluk showed a knack for scoring on hustle plays. He was able to score on a floater after driving off of a screen on the break. He also was able to jump into the contact to draw free throws on another floater after getting the ball in transition. Plus, he also managed to score on a backdoor cut to the hoop late in this match.
He struggled more to score on half-court drives. He had trouble finishing plays in traffic, especially when he wouldn’t get foul calls, and sometimes he would rush his shots that would lead to misses. Swaka Lo Buluk also was unable to make any of his threes, as he would shoot the ball too hard from beyond the arc, and he couldn’t find his shooting touch from out there. He also attempted a mid-range floater, but missed badly when a help defender rotated to contest the shot. He seemed to be at his best when operating as a scorer on hustle plays, or when attempting floaters from around the mid-range area.
Also, Swaka Lo Buluk showed off decent playmaking skills. He is an unselfish player that will look to find the open man, and he was able to push the pace and pass the ball to a teammate on a dribble handoff to set up a score for him on the break. Swaka Lo Buluk also managed to set a solid off-ball screen midway through this match. On the downside, he can sometimes be too indecisive in looking to make plays on offense. On one play, he waited too long to inbound the basketball, which led him to be called for a five-second inbounding violation.
He also showed an adequate ability to rebound the basketball. Swaka Lo Buluk was able to haul in boards on both ends of the floor due to possessing solid athleticism and motor, and he also pushed the ball quickly up the court after getting a defensive board another time.
Plus, Swaka Lo Buluk played adequate defense in this game. He is an athletic, energetic defender that showed quick feet to guard his opponents. He would rotate and use his length to close out on three-point shooters to contest shots to force misses. He also rotated to an opposing ball handler, and applied pressure to indirectly force a passing turnover. He also managed to fight hard through a screen when defending off the ball to stay with his man. Plus, he also communicated to a teammate to help him close out on a corner three-point shooter to help his team get a stop late in this game.
On the downside, he had some trouble fighting through screens. Sometimes he would fight too high over the top and then trail his man to give up open shots. Other times, he would go too far under to also give up open jumpers. He also would sometimes struggle to defend quick ball handlers off the dribble. Another time, he over-helped in the paint and was late to rotate back, which led him to allow an opponent to score on a corner three.
Overall, Wani Swaka Lo Buluk is an interesting player, because he has a game that uniquely fits his team in the NBL, but he will need to add considerable more skills on offense to be a viable NBA prospect moving forward. He will really have to improve his jump shot, especially from behind the three-point line. He’s also an extremely low volume role player on offense, so his game may be a little bit limited. On the other hand, Swaka Lo Buluk operates well as a secondary ball mover and off-ball motion player on offense, and as an on-ball defender on defense. He may have a ways to go before becoming a legitimate NBA draft prospect, but if he does make his way to the NBA, he could project to be a defensive specialist similar to Quinton Ross in the association. Even if he doesn’t end up making it to the NBA, Swaka Lo Buluk could end up carving out a lengthy career as a defensive stalwart in the NBL.
In another note, the head coach that eventually helped the Sydney Kings win the 2022 NBL title is Chase Buford, who is the son of San Antonio Spurs’ legendary executive, R.C. Buford. He won in his first season as the head coach in the NBL, and he is the fourth-youngest head coach to win in the NBL.