By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
While Deni Avdija is widely considered the best European prospect of this upcoming draft – and rightfully so – according to the EuroLeague numbers, French point guard Theo Maledon who was averaging 7.4 ppg and 3.1 apg should be also a candidate for this unofficial title.
Maledon announced his decision to enter the NBA draft, he is expected to be a lottery pick and at least, he has a great pedigree. Contrary to Avdija who was part of a loaded Maccabi FOX Tel Aviv team, Maledon had the chance to have many meaningful minutes as a player of LDLC ASVEL, the team owned by French basketball icon and NBA legend Tony Parker.
Parker acted as a mentor to the young point guard, giving him a ton of advice and one of them applies to everyone during this unexpected COVID-19 pandemic. “I can’t tell you just one piece of advice, because they are so many”, Maledon said to Eurohoops. “But the main thing he said is to control what you can control and not worry about anything else. Things will not go your way every time, but if you stay focus and keep working through the ups and downs, things will always get better”.
Born in 2001, Maledon is still a work in progress, so he admits that despite having the guidance of Tony Parker, it’s hard to name him his possible heir: “That’s something I may say at the end of my career when I was able to see what I may have achieved. Right now I can’t focus on that, because Tony has too big of a career, It’s not something that you can plan to achieve, or just say after one or two years that you are on the same path. He won a lot of titles”.
After all, the EuroLeague experience of Maledon, which is just 18 games, served also as a wake-up call: “It’s been a learning experience, starting as a rookie in the EuroLeague, discovering EuroLeague, but I got injured, I didn’t play the way I really wanted. That’s the EuroLeague! It’s a really big competition, so you have to bring your A-game every night, but it was a process and I was always trying to prove that I can play”.
And speaking about the EuroLeague, the fact that Maledon held his ground, starting 12 out of those 18 games, is a good sign, considering that the previous teen that made splashes in the EuroLeague was Luka Doncic. Of course, Doncic was the MVP of the league and a generational player, however, Maledon admits that the Slovenian sensation also created an environment that can be beneficial to all EuroLeague players.
“Doncic’s presence in the NBA did good things for European players”, Maledon said. “He was killing it in the EuroLeague and he does the same in the NBA. So, yes, he paved a way for European prospects. He was already great but he keeps it going, playing very well”.
And while Maledon didn’t have the career of Doncic in Europe, when asked if he is as ready as Doncic to contribute right away in the NBA, he smiled and answered: “We will see. Obviously, we don’t have the same career in Europe, so… but we will see”.