By Kings.com Fan Correspondent Alex Kramers
Past: Since being acquired from the New Orleans Hornets in a mid-season trade, Marcus Thornton, a 2010 All-Rookie Second Team selection, established himself as one of the top pure scorers in the NBA.
The 6-foot-4 guard led the Kings in points (21.3 per game), to go along with 4.7 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.7 steals in 27 contests, pouring in a career-high 42 points (13-20 FG) in a win over the Golden State Warriors on March 14, 2011. Thornton’s 545 points over the final 25 games of the season was the 10th-highest in the League, and his 50 three-pointers over the same stretch ranked 11th.
The sharp-shooting guard routinely delivered in crunch time, leading the Kings to five fourth-quarter comeback wins. His timely heroics included hitting the game-tying three-pointer to force overtime against the Utah Jazz on March 5 and delivering the game-winning basket on a step-back 20-footer against the Warriors on April 10. After ranking ninth among all shooting guards in Player Efficiency Rating in 2010-11 (17.4), Thornton finished with a superb 18.2 PER in a Kings uniform.
No. 23 has routinely demonstrated he’s one of only a handful of players capable of scoring 20-plus points on any given night – or in any quarter. The former Hornets guard set a New Orleans team record with 23 of his game-high 37 points in the second quarter on Feb. 23, 2010 and notched 16 of his 29 points in the fourth quarter in a win over the L.A. Clippers on Feb. 28 in just his third game with the Kings.
Among the premier rebounders at his position, Thornton grabbed at least five rebounds in 11 of the final 21 games of the season, and had a higher total rebound rate (8.6) in 2010-11 than Kobe Bryant, Jason Kidd and Russell Westbrook.
Present: Thornton was one of several former Louisiana State University stars who organized a charity basketball event – the Baton Rouge Pro-Am Classic – held in his hometown in September. The Kings guard returned to train in Louisiana during the offseason, working on his strength and conditioning with longtime trainer and former U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Coach Gayle Hatch. Thornton also stayed in basketball shape by tuning up against NBA-level competition in Los Angeles.
Future: A quick, aggressive guard who has the ability to create for himself off the dribble and set up his teammates, Thornton has shown he’s comfortable playing both guard positions with terrific ball-handling skills, dishing out a career-high nine assists, along with 23 points and eight rebounds in a win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 20. Perfectly complementing Tyreke Evans in one of the game’s most exciting young backcourts, the hot-shooting Thornton is sure to have plenty of open looks when Evans penetrates to the basket and commands the focus of opposing defenses.
In a sign of what’s to come for Sacramento, the Kings won six of the 11 games in which the two guards played together last season. During that time, Thornton averaged 20.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 three-pointers per game, while Evans dished out six assists per contest and chipped in 15.4 points.
“Once I get a whole year with the team and have a better feel for it, I think it’s going to be great,” said Thornton after last season. “The sky is the limit for this team.”