Player Profile: Marcus Thornton, The Unwanted Sniper


Mar 11, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Marcus Thornton (23) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 106-97. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Who Is Marcus Thornton?

For 6’4 marksmen Marcus Thornton, the vigorous journey of playing professional basketball in the NBA has been a long one. Thornton was traded to (at the time) New Orleans Hornets upon being drafted 43rd overall by the Miami Heat. Since then, Thornton has played with 5 different teams in 6 season before signing with the Houston Rockets this off season.

The NBA journeyman has shown his uncanny ability to catch fire from the perimeter on some nights and go completely ghost on most nights for each team he’s played for. From bombarding the Pacers for 42 points to connecting on 4 three’s in 9 attempts under 19 minutes, Thornton’s shooting hysteria has been a league wide phenomenon since entering.

In comparison, Thornton reminds me a lot of my friends who play pick up, most of them couldn’t hit water if they fell out of a boat. But once every blue moon they’ll play like the second coming of Billy Hoyle.

Thornton’s uncanny ability to catch fire on any random night has kept his name in NBA relevancy. Teams who have embraced the movement of advanced data analysis have found Marcus to be an intriguing player, one who would fit their system perfectly.

Next: Coach, He's A Shooter!

Mar 2, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Marcus Thornton (23) dribbles the ball past Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic (7) during the first half at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Transition Period

I don’t have to tell you how much this league has evolved into a clash of who can attempt the most three’s by the end of the night duel. Data geeks have raided the village and brainwashed two third’s of NBA GM’s that a successful roster revolves around players who can strike from deep.

Unfortunately as teams are on the hunt for outside threats, we may be witnessing the very extinction of the traditional post up man. Say goodbye to your grandpa’s Kareem Sky Hook, send your condolences to dad’s Dream Shake and embrace the big…bad…KRISTAPS PORZINGIS!

NBA scouts are more than ever active overseas searching for the next Dirk Nowitzki who very well may be the greatest stretch four to play the game. Defense is no longer a priority, if you’re 6’8 with range you have an offer. Rebounding? Never heard of it. To get a deeper look into how most NBA teams are scouting players who’d fit seamlessly into their system, I thought I’d share with you an exclusive player to coach interview.

All jokes aside, the transition from big in the post to skilled on the perimeter has players like Marcus Thornton smiling from ear to ear. For the Rockets, Thornton seems to be the perfect fit. Houston by now you should know is at the forefront of analytical basketball.

Next: The Scheme Of Things

Mar 11, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Marcus Thornton (23) against the Minnesota Timberwolves at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 106-97. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Hot Spots

Above is Thornton’s shot chart, as you can see his areas of expertise are from the corner where he can burn a team if left unguarded. Below is Houston’s shot chart.

See the correlation? Match made in heaven.

Imagine the dilemma opposing defenses are put in when facing this Houston offense when a trio of Ty Lawson, James Harden and Thornton are on the floor. Not only do you have to worry about Lawson getting to the rim or Harden stirring the pot, you now have to stress over whether or not to help off of Thornton in the corner.

Next: Areas Of Improvement

Mar 11, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Marcus Thornton (23) reacts against the Minnesota Timberwolves at US Airways Center. The Suns defeated the Timberwolves 106-97. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Do I Go Under or Over?

Have you ever went to get groceries and couldn’t decide whether or not you want chocolate or vanilla ice cream? The decision is tough, there are pros and cons to each side. You analyze the situation so hard migraines start to occur and you decide to go with strawberry. Why? Because if you can’t have both why have any. The next day you regret choosing the strawberry because ultimately it was worse than either of the immediate choices.

That is how Marcus Thornton chooses to defend screens.

Thornton’s tendency to get caught up in screens have been the Achilles heel of his career. For fans its amusing, for coaches it is the ultimate headache. His indecisiveness on whether or not to go under or over a screen has kept Thornton from consistently playing valuable minutes. In a conference where you have guy’s like Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, J.J. Redick and Damian Lillard just to name a few, your ability to read a screen is more than crucial to your team’s success.

His defensive inefficiencies are over shadowed by his scoring barrages but how often can we count on Thornton to consistently do so?

Next: To Stay On The Court

Mar 13, 2015; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Phoenix Suns guard Marcus Thornton (23) shoots over Atlanta Hawks forward Pero Antic (6) and Atlanta Hawks guard Kyle Korver (26) during the first half at US Airways Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Buy Low Sell High

Thornton’s tenacity and intense effort makes up for what he lacks on defense. At 6’4 Marcus plays with a chip on his shoulder that most under sized players play with.

Averaging nearly 7 rebounds per game per 36 minutes in his 2011 campaign with the Sacramento Kings (per, Thornton has a nose for the ball and doesn’t mind doing the dirty work among the trees.

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Marcus offers Houston another scorer who can create for himself off the bench. He is a better scorer off the dribble than he is a spot up shooter, this can be a cursing or a blessing. Ideally Marcus was brought in to become a spot up threat from deep coming off created offense from Harden or Lawson. For a player who’s used to doing damage with the ball in his hand this may be cause for some concern.

Fortunately, Thornton is known to be a locker room guy so the transition in his game should come easier than expected. For an NBA journeymen finding a secure location where winning is everything, adjusting to the culture and what is expected shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Marcus was signed to a 1 year minimum deal, a bargain by any means and no surprise at all with Daryl Morey at the helm. Thornton can be huge for Houston with his knack for scoring the ball, another weapon to what was already an offensive juggernaut can mean trouble for those visiting the Toyota Center. Whether or not he can improve defensively will determine how much we see of the 28 year old sniper.

Next: James Harden Player Profile

Next: SCS Round Table: Off Season Part 1

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