In 73 games last year, rookie Marcus Thornton averaged 14.5 points, 1.6 threes and percentages of .451/.814. “I’m listening,” you decided back in August. “Not bad,” you figured back in September. “Kaboom,” you shouted to no one in particular back in October. Your random shouting was weird, but not your belief in the Holy Grail Marcus. In 2009, Thornton didn’t see the floor until the ninth game of the season, he didn’t start until the 44th game. “That won’t happen again,” you thought to yourself and said out loud once in the men’s room at a Chili’s because you thought there was no one there, then got all embarrassed when you realized there was a dude in the stall and he now knew how you felt about Thornton’s role for 2010. He went from averaging 18 mpg in the first two months of his rookie season to 35 mpg in the last two months, then back down to 16 mpg through December of his sophomore season, getting traded to Sacramento and once again averaging 39 mpg in the last 24 games of his season. “What the eff,” you mutter under your breath, careful to self-censor the cursing in case an unnoticed toddler is standing within earshot. Anyway, what makes Thornton a good bet to begin, middle and end well in 2011? Let me count the ways.
Actually, no. No need to count. There’s really just one way: Per36. Thornton was worth a lot to your team toward the end of last year (22/5/4, with 3.7 stl+3ptm per game), he’ll be worth less next season, but not a ton less. Playing with the Hornets as a rookie in 2009, Thornton averaged 20/4/2, with 3.4 stl+3ptm every 36 minutes. In the 46 games he played with the Hornets in 2010 his per36 was a similar 19/5/3, with a 3.1 stl+3ptm. Then he went off to Sacramento to be the second-year Tyreke Evans that Evans was too hurt to be and ended up with a per36 of 20/4/3, with a 3.5 stl+3ptm. Those are three very similar lines coming from three very varied (stutterer!) playing situations. This tells me the fault was not wit the player, but with the game. Last year in my sleeper post on another site, I said this about Thornton: “Only a team of utter buffoonery would play this guy fewer than 30 minutes anyway. I give the Hornets a 50-50 shot.” I’m going to say the same thing about the Maloof-run Kings in regards to Thornton in 2011. It doesn’t help that buffoon and Maloof already kinda sound like the same word. With Evans likely healthier in 2011 than he was in 2010 and DeMarcus Cousins one year closer to being dominant, I don’t see Thornton’s run of being “the man” in the California capitol extending into next season, but I do see him as the team’s best shooter a solid third option and a player who once every few weeks will go off for a big shooting night. I don’t think 16/4/3, with 3.5 stl+3ptm per game is expecting too much from a third-year guard on a team with (almost literally) nothing to lose.