Yante Maten will have plenty of opportunities to stick with an NBA team this summer. The 6-foot-8 former Georgia forward and 2018 SEC Player of the Year is on the fringes of the draft conversation, but even if his name isn’t called on June 21, it won’t take long for a team to scoop him up.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie told DawgNation that, while Maten is only a “top 100 or top 80” prospect who won’t necessarily be one of 60 NBA draft picks, he could very well sign a free-agent contract that same night.
“He might end up being an affiliate G League player where they cut him in training camp and send him down,” Vecenie said. “But I would imagine we’ll hear about Yante on draft night one way or the other because some team will have prioritized him as a player and said we want to have this guy around on our Summer League team, training camp, etc.”
Maten, who currently is attending the NBA draft combine in Brooklyn, is a far cry from the one-and-done mold that dominates the top of the draft. He played four seasons at Georgia and will bring a decidedly old-school game to the professional ranks.
His career numbers in Athens (14.7 points and 6.9 rebounds over 128 games) put him among the program’s all-time greats. But his offensive arsenal needs to continue to expand.
“I don’t want to say he’s an archaic player, where he’s coming along way too late,” Vecenie said. “But he’s definitely more of a traditional ‘4’ man — in an era where NBA teams are going more toward the athletic and spacing-oriented and versatile-player style.”
Maten took a lot more 3-pointers in 2017-18 (2.6 per game), and finished his career shooting better than 40 percent from deep. Vecenie said the big man will need to consistently hit from 18 feet and beyond in the NBA if he wants to stay off the bench.
One year ago: NBA analyst gives Yante Maten scouting report
The combine will be a great time to show off his shooting touch, as well as to give scouts a sense of his ability on the other side of the floor.
“I would like to see him maybe get a little more mobile defensively,” Vecenie said. “If he can show in pre-draft workouts that he has potential to move his feet a little bit more fluidly than what he showed sometimes at Georgia, I think that would really, really help him as a prospect and kind of lock down a role that he could play in the NBA.”
Yante Maten is ‘gonna be battling’
Vecenie said Maten is a “very solid” and “very reliable” player who would potentially fit in an NBA lineup as a combo 4-5 who sees about 10 minutes per game.
There aren’t many modern players to compare him to, though Vecenie mentioned former Miami Heat post Udonis Haslem as a “relative” to Maten’s game. Haslem was known as a sometimes-significant role player who played strong defense and hit shots from the short corner.
Regardless of whether Maten gets drafted or signs a free-agent deal, fans will be able to track his progress in the Summer League.
“He’s a guy that, even if he is selected, he’s gonna have to fight for his contract and fight for his position,” Vecenie said. “So I don’t really know that it matters if he’s gonna get drafted or not drafted. He’s gonna be battling anyway.”
And if he ends up making a team, it might be because of the so-called small stuff.
“The big key for Yante is just coming in with the right attitude, understanding that he’s probably a bench player in the NBA, especially early on in his career,” Vecenie said, “and trying to add to his game while also being a great teammate.”