Wednesday, February 24th, 2010 at 5:12 pm  |  17 responses

What’s Up Marcus Thornton

Thornton lights up the Cavs, rookie class gets even deeper.

by Colin Powers

The first-year man outta the Bayou put on a show last night in Cleveland, methodically dismantling the Cav defense for 37 points in a valiant losing effort. Along the way, he set the franchise-record for scoring output in a single quarter his 23 in the 2nd. This wasn’t the first such outburst out of the polished rook that GM Jeffrey Bower uncovered in the 2nd round of last June’s draft, and his dynamic collaboration with fellow freshman Darren Collison bodes well for the Hornets down the road. Nevertheless, Thornton has been a somewhat invisible man in spite of his impressive body of work, his name often forgotten in Marcus Thorntondiscussing the distinguished members of the 2009 Draft class.

How is it that a dude who averaged an efficient 20 ppg in his two years of SEC ball at LSU lasted until the stages of non-guaranteed money last June at the NBA Draft? Again, it seems, teams across the El distrusted their eyes, confining their evaluation methodology to some anachronistic formula that demands a player fit neatly within a standardized, tidy definition of a particular position. As a shooting guard, Thornton’s undersized 6-4 frame was apparently enough to discourage many-a-GM, their traditionalist approach to scouting blinding them from the simple fact that dude can score, on anyone. Proto-types are nice, but basketball is a game built on fluidity, creativity, and adaptability; you don’t need to fit some a priori mold of PG, SG, SF, PF, C to find success. Haven’t we learned anything from Monta Ellis, Craig Smith, Carl Landry, Chuck Hayes, Ben Gordon, etc? These guys get it done, period. They always have. Who is to say they won’t do the same in the League? Aren’t they worth taking a shot on if only because of their track record? Shit, sometimes unorthodoxy and a style that cannot be simplistically pigeonholed as “creator” or “shooter” or “interior scorer” makes you even more difficult to defend. There’s no blueprint for the D to base their preparation on.

Nevertheless, there will always be a bias against those guys who don’t fit into pre-conceived notions of positionality, and there will continue to be opportunities for teams to find a late gem like Marcus Thornton. He’s already topped 20 points in 8 games this season while maintaining the precision and efficiency of his college days (44% FG, 38% 3s, 79% FT). Last night he took just 22 shots to produce 37 points, and the economic nature of his stat line is furthered when you give his game the eye-test. Thornton’s not breathtakingly explosive but is more than adequate athletically with a relatively thick frame that keeps defenders from hanging off him and impeding his movements. Additionally, Thornton’s quick, clean mechanics and extensive range on his jumper force defenders to stay tight and opens up the dribble-drive. He has a smooth handle, solid footwork, and a veteran savvy beyond his years for finding space to get his shot off (see: fast-break pull-up jumper before LeBron could contest last night). In short, Thornton’s a refined, complete, versatile weapon who will get his at the tin, from mid-range and from distance. He also seems to be blessed with that somewhat intangible scoring know-how, that innate feel certain guys have for finding little creases and opportunities to exploit both on and off the ball, surprising you when you look up and see they’ve got 20 on the night.

This kind of gift for scoring the rock is rare and it doesn’t come in any prepackaged shape or size. Sometimes, husky, undersized big dudes without any hops just know how to get it done on the block (Z-BO, Luis Scola). Sometimes, smallish 2s without the blessing of freak fast-twitch fiber also get theirs no matter what (Joe Dumars, Jeff Hornacek, even Brandon Roy to a certain extent). Marcus is not gonna be the alpha male on a winning team, but he will be a valuable asset who knows his role…and plays it well. I think we’ll be hearing his name for years to come.

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  • http://www.need4sheed.com Tarzan Cooper

    GREAT young player. marcus and darren are incredible.

  • http://slamonline.com Chris Deaton

    Agreed. From experience watching SEC ball, I had a feeling Thornton would eventually do some damage in the League. Nice to see him doing it sooner than later.

  • http://twitter.com/rainbeauxxbrite Brittany Brown

    I love Marcus Thornton!!! He is such a great asset to the New Orleans Hornets. I wish him and the team the best of luck!!! He will do great things during his career.

  • Teddy-the-Bear

    Great post. The Hornets need to be commended for what they pulled of this draft. Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton will be perennial All-Stars in the future. Collison is already playing like an All-Star with CP3 out… wow.

  • Jon

    Great article. Kinda puts the hornets in a spot dosen’t it? While they’re a 5th-8th playoff team at best who will surely never win a chip with this group,which direction should they take? Trade CP3 and West? Or trade the youngsters (Thornton n Collison)? Tehy’re unwilling to pay big bucks too. Makes u wonder why they’re in the NBA for apart from producing the sickest jerseys.

  • henry

    couldve sworn ben gordon was a top-3 pick? correct me, if not a lottery for sure.. thoguh i get the undersized reference

  • Josh123

    There is to much hype on body types to position and not enough on whos actually do what, if you can shoot it, why does it matter if your 5ft or 7ft?? if your getting it done, your getting it done.
    I saw the Hornets vs Rockets the other night, and it was a joy to watch Collison, Thornton and Budinger play, they know where the basket is, they can all shoot it (maybe not collison so much), they all penetrate, really good IQs.
    The league seems to be in really good hands, from the OjS, Roses, Gordons, down to the Jennings and Evans and the Euros coming through like Casspi, Jerebko, Fernandez – things are looking good.
    And there is a good crop of big kids from Russia and Serbia on there way.
    Teach the kids to play basketball not a position!

  • http://www.hibachi20.blogspot.com Hursty

    I agree with everything you said in the article, but I gotta call about the last bit about Brandon Roy. Dude is 6’6, and can play PG/SG and SF.

  • Charlie

    Marcus finally getting his credit. Dropped 25 points last night. I played in high school with him and he has always been this way.

  • http://www.bluefont.com Hisham

    cosign hursty. plus this little known fact about b-roy: he is definitely of the fast twitch mode. 40 inch vert (rarely displayed, i know)

  • http://slamonline.com Ben Osborne

    Colin, so glad to have you here on the site before a scouting service picks you up for real. Love the attention to detail!

  • Colin Powers

    Yea guys, I love B-Roy, and he is surprisingly athletic. I guess I was more referring to the calmness he always has on the ball, nothing’s rushed.

    ben g was an early draft pick but I think there’s been a stigma against him since day one because he didn’t easily fit into a mold. A better reference prob would have been aaron brooks, who is both small and not exactly a true PG…but dude can play.

  • Cizzo

    Told yall Marcus Thorton was a diamond in the ruff I saw it at LSU I’m no where near surprised just happy Slam sniiffed him out!

  • Matt Joe

    Nice posts so far. Agree with all. At the end of the day basketball is a game for those with skill combinded with heart. Size does not and should not matter.

  • therighttoremainsalient

    If New Orleans think of going the way of OKC, they could be right behind them in a few years time… with OKC winning just about 60 games for the next half a decade… It will come down to some very shrewd GM’ing and getting 15 young guys on the same page…it can be done.

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  • http://nationofmillions.ca ciolkstar

    My favorite young gunner in the league. This kid gets shots up.
    Unconscious. I love it. This is vintage SLAM. We need stories about the up comers at least as much as we need em about KobeBronWade.