Highly experienced in the professional ranks in Europe, 18-year-old Theo Maledon is ready to make his mark on the NBA. He will become the latest European prospect to take his talents to the association, as he is highly touted to be a lottery pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. If you haven’t heard of Maledon yet, you will do soon.
Theo Maledon was born in Rouen, France. His mother, Sylvie, played basketball with the French junior national team. His father, Claude, played too in the Nationale Masculine 1 (NM1), which is the 3rd tier of professional basketball in France. In addition, Maledon’s sister Lena plays college basketball in the United States and his uncle was an assistant coach for the LNB Pro B team, ALM Evreux.
His first exposure to the sport of basketball came at the age of 3 with this local team, Mesnil-Esnard, located in Seine-Maritime. Maledon, at age 11, was playing for SPO Rouen, the biggest team in his local area.
Fast-forward to 2015, a 14-year-old Maledon moved to Paris to join the INSEP sports institute. The well-renowned institute that produced the likes of Tony Parker, Boris Diaw, and Clint Capela, to name a few.
For the next 2 seasons, Maledon represented Centre Federal de Basketball, an INSEP-affiliated team. It was in the 2016-17 season where he saw regular minutes. He averaged 8.2 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 2.7 assists through the campaign. Playing 25.6 minutes per game. In April 2017, he featured in the Jordan Brand Classic Global Showcase at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Where he scored 15 points.
In June 2017, at the age of 16, Maledon moved to Lyon to join the junior team of French LNB Pro A professional outfit, ASVEL Basket. By September 2017, he was making his Pro A debut for ASVEL’s senior team. Becoming the second-youngest player in franchise history to do so.
He went onto to make 9 appearances in the 2017-18 season, at the top level, playing 3.6 minutes per game. Additionally, he played in 2 EuroCup games. In the summer of 2018, Maledon signed his first professional contract (3-years) with ASVEL. This was the start of something special as his role in the team was much greater now.
Throughout the 2018-19 campaign, Maledon averaged 7.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, 2.2 assists, through 33 contests in the LNB Pro A. On 49.1% shooting, 40.6% from 3-point land. He also averaged 7.1 points, 2.4 rebounds, 2.1 assists, in 18 EuroCup games. He was named an LNB All-Star, becoming the youngest player in history to receive such honour. Maledon also won the LNB Pro A Best Young Player award.
The honours in the 2018-19 campaign didn’t stop there. Maledon was named the Finals MVP as ASVEL won the French Cup. He also helped his team win the Pro A Finals. The following season, saw a now 18-year-old make his EuroLeague debut. He went on to make 22 appearances in the contest, averaging 7.4 points, 1.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, on 45.6% shooting from the field. 36.7% from beyond the arc.
In February 2019, he experienced his first taste of senior national team action, at the European qualifiers for the 2019 FIBA World Cup. This came after representing France at the 2016 and the 2017 FIBA Europe Under-16 Championships. As well as the 2018 FIBA Under-17 Basketball World Cup.
This season, Maledon was averaging 6.5 points, 2 rebounds, 1.9 assists, in the Pro A, at the time of the Coronavirus suspension. On April 5, he declared for the 2020 NBA Draft, where he is strongly considered a potential lottery pick. Maledon is ranked 15th in ESPN’s top-100.
Theo Maledon goes into the draft with arguably the most experience out of any player. Having played in 104 professional contests in France, in the LNB Pro A, EuroCup, and EuroLeague. He hosts a large frame, standing at 6-foot-5 with a 6-foot-9 wingspan. This allows him to be adaptable and a nuisance on the defensive end. He’s constantly picking up deflections and steals due to his wiry figure.
He’s still got some work to do in terms of getting strong and filling out his large frame. However, that hasn’t stopped him from developing a reliable game when driving to the rim and using his body along with his speed to his advantage. His offensive game doesn’t stop there as he can convert from range, and play-make also. ESPN have praised Maledon for his “work ethic and approach to the game, possessing a level of poise and maturity that belies his age”.
Theo Maledon is the latest prospect to come out of Europe and hosts an intriguing well-rounded skill-set. It will certainly be interesting to see how his game develops further in the NBA. He’s an exciting young player, that’s for sure.