French point guard Theo Maledon has submitted paperwork to the league office to make himself eligible for the 2020 NBA draft on Sunday.
"I am excited to announce that I am declaring for the 2020 NBA draft," Maledon wrote in an email to ESPN.
Maledon, the No. 15 prospect in the ESPN Top 100, plays in the EuroLeague and French LNB for ASVEL, averaging 7.1 points and 2.3 assists in 17 minutes. He is a leading candidate to win the prestigious EuroLeague Rising Star award that was scheduled to be announced at the Final Four in May, as only the second 18-year-old in the past decade (along with Luka Doncic) to start the majority of his team's EuroLeague games.
Maledon was identified at a young age, receiving a scholarship at 14 to famed INSEP Academy, a government-sponsored institute outside Paris for the nation's top athletes. He left the program to join ASVEL, the club Tony Parker owns in Lyon, and started to see minutes at the pro level just a few months after turning 16.
He won a gold medal at the U16 European Championship and was captain of the French junior national team that won silver at the FIBA U17 World Cup. After a summer of training and playing exhibition games with the French senior national team, Maledon rejoined a deep ASVEL squad that was invited to participate in the EuroLeague for the first time since 2015. His team was tied for first place in France at 21-4 when its season was suspended on March 10 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
"I am at my parents' house in Lyon right now," Maledon told ESPN. "It has been very difficult being away from practice, games, and my teammates. I am trying to make the most of it, but not having real basketball is very difficult. Once the situation is better and I am allowed to come to the U.S., I will train there. The past two summers I spent several weeks in the U.S. and can't wait to come back. Right now, I am working out twice per day at home. Since my Mom is a physiotherapist, she is able to monitor the program ASVEL provided and even stretch me out. I'm also watching a lot of video of NBA point guards in various game situations. Between Synergy and NBATV I am spending a lot of time learning and enjoying."
Maledon has excellent size for a point guard at 6-foot-5, with a 6-foot-9 wingspan that allows him to defend any of the backcourt positions. A career 36% 3-point and 79% free throw shooter, he is arguably the most experienced player in the draft in terms of minutes against quality competition despite being only 18. He draws rave reviews for his work ethic and approach to the game, possessing a level of poise and maturity that belies his age.
"Before COVID-19 stopped basketball, I was looking forward to finishing the EuroLeague season and hopefully winning the LNB Championship," Maledon told ESPN. "Normally, the championship would have run until the second week of June, so I would not have much time to train in the U.S. before the draft. Now the landscape has changed but I have to wait like everyone else to see when and what we are able to do.
"Right now I am doing everything possible at my house to maintain my conditioning. Really all I can do is listen to the experts, the officials, and my team and stay at home. I know this is not what I expected, but knowing I will be in the NBA next year is what I am focused on. One day I will shake Commissioner [Adam] Silver's hand."