BY JAKE HENSON
What will the Brooklyn Nets get with Marcus Thornton?
5 fast Marcus Thornton facts:
- 1. He is still only 26 years old. (fist pump for upside and young players Nets fans)
- 2. In just his third season in the league he averaged 21.3 points per game.
- 3. He was named in the All-Rookie second team in 2010.
- 4. Along with ‘Buckets’ or ‘Little Buckets’ he has also been labeled ‘The Bayou Bomber,' referring to his time spent at LSU and growing up in the South.
- 5. He was named SEC player of the year in 2009-2010 while playing for LSU. That season, Thornton averaged 21.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, shooting 38.8 percent from 3-point range
To make matters easier, when we discuss Thornton’s traits we will stick purely to offensive traits. Because the only real trait he has defensively is like most of his buddies in Sacramento -- he's not good.
Across the last 3 seasons, 23.3 percent of Thornton’s offense has come from spot-up situations. Not surprising for a player recruited as a knockdown shooter. His stock falls dramatically when that meal ticket dries up.
He's also a pick-and-roll player; 14 percent of his offense has stemmed from being the balhandler over the last 3 seasons. The bad news, he has proved to be relatively inefficient in this role – scoring at a low percentage and also making sloppy plays and committing many turnovers. Perhaps under Jason Kidd’s expert ball handling tutelage, Thornton can address this area of this game and allow the likes of Johnson, Williams and Pierce to play off the ball in spot up situations.
Despite his 6'4", 210-pound frame, Thornton rarely posts up. Across the last 3 years, he has posted up on less than 2 percent of his logged possessions. Kidd’s offense now emphasizes a lot of ball movement and already contains guards who can post up in Joe Johnson and Shaun Livingston so this trend will continue in a Nets jersey.
Finishing around the basket is one of the few areas of Marcus’ game that hasn’t declined over the past 3 years, even as those attempts have gone down. Not surprisingly, Thornton’s most efficient method of offense comes in transition; 20.6 percent of his offense over the 3-year sample period has come in transition, scoring on nearly 56 percent of those possessions.
What went wrong?
See below for the differential in Thornton’s shot chart from 2010-11 (where he averaged 21.3 points in a Kings jersey) to this season with the Kings.
Keep in mind that GREEN is above league average, YELLOW is around league average and RED is below league average.
Marcus Thornton is a confident shooter and heat-check style scorer. It's uncomplicated. He isn’t a world-beater, nor is he even a starter in this league (at the moment anyway). He does however possess the skills to be a valuable ‘igniter’ off an NBA bench.
The problem is that Thornton's in the midst of an extraordinary slump. At the age of 26, theoretically ‘Buckets’ should be entering his prime. However, in season 2013-14 he has posted career lows in field goal percentage with a woeful 38.1% and in three-point percentage 31.8%. It's why the Nets could get him on the cheap.
He's been fazed out of Sacramento's offense slowly, which may be an irritant. In January for example, DeMarcus Cousins, Isaiah Thomas and Rudy Gay accounted for more then half of the field goals attempted (FGA) by the Kings. That is, 47.9 FGA out of 84.2 team total FGA.
You could also argue that Thornton has been on some of the worst teams in the league (Sacramento haven’t been close to a .500 team whilst he’s been there). He’s been in locker rooms riddled with bad egos, bad contracts and bad players and on top of all of that, dealt with constant speculation over the future of the franchise in the city of Sacramento.
Thornton on the Nets
— Brooklyn Nets (@BrooklynNets) February 19, 2014
The Nets are a great situation for Thornton to step into. He has a player-oriented, likable coach in Jason Kidd. Leading the locker room are Hall of Fame players in Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, possessing two NBA stars with calibers Thornton didn’t come close to playing alongside in Sacramento.
There's also a team that loves to make the extra pass (sometimes too often) and involve others in the game. Livingston, Kirilenko, Williams, Johnson, Pierce and Garnett are all very capable ball movers. It will be a far cry from the ‘run and chuck’ mentality he has put up with in Sacramento.
With all that said, I’m not expecting great things from Thornton; short bursts of semi-efficient offense and a three-point percentage somewhere in the mid to high 30’s will be a bonus for the Nets who really lost nothing from Evans and Terry’s departure.
Here’s hoping the ‘Bayou Bomber’ finds his range again in Brooklyn.