To say Marcus Thornton has exceeded expectation so far would be an understatement. Unfortunately, Kings fans will compare him to Kevin Martin, since that’s basically what they got in return for one of the more efficient scorers in the NBA right now. Oh, and cap space, don’t forget about cap space.
That aside, Thornton can play. To be honest I didn’t know much about him besides that he had a very nice rookie year, especially for a 2nd round pick. From watching him in his first five games, I’ve concluded that:
He can score. Against the Clippers, he scored in a multitude of ways; Shots off the dribble, strong drives to the basket, baseline spins in the post, half hooks, and a couple nice running floaters in the lane. His defense isn’t great, which is why he became expendable in New Orleans, but it’s not Beno bad, so I’ll live with it. I see some potential there for him, though. He’s built pretty well and has pretty good quickness. He’s still young, so he can improve in that area.
The biggest question is whether he can play in the same backcourt as Tyreke Evans. Both guys are high usage players, which could be a problem, but Thornton’s long range shooting should help spread the floor for Evans. In theory of course, as I thought Kevin Martin would do exactly that last season. Things did not pan out.
Unfortunately, we may not find out if they work well together for awhile. Evans is undergoing shock treatment for his plantar fasciitis, which has plagued him all season. He is scheduled to be re-evaluated after it is done, so who knows when or if he will be back this year. I hope he does, because while it does help the Kings in their lottery position, it would be nice to know whether the two work well together before Thornton hits restricted free agency this summer.
Since we all know Tyreke Evans struggles playing off the ball, it’s going to be up to Thornton to adjust to playing more off the ball. I’d like to see the Kings run some off ball screens for Thornton and see how he is at catching a shooting off of curls a la Rip Hamilton. Hopefully, Thornton’s deep shooting can stop teams from loading up the lane with defenders on Tyreke’s drives.
There is good news though. If Evans and Thornton can’t figure it out, the Kings can always have him be a super sub. When Evans needs a rest, Thornton can come in and be that high usage scorer for the Kings, similar to what Bobby Jackson was during the golden years. The Kings could also experiment with a three guard lineup featuring Beno Udrih, Thornton, and Evans. Evans is strong and long enough to defend most 3′s in the league.
It should be interesting to see what happens if/when Evans comes back from injury. Will he be back to good health? Will he mesh with Thornton? Will the Kings be able to keep the ball moving on offense with those two in the backcourt? There are lots of questions, not many answers. Hopefully Evans can come back this year and answer some of them.