Opening the season with three losses of 20+ points, the Houston Rockets are thankful that their struggles are not the team’s only surprise.
Signing a one-year minimum contract this past summer, veteran guard Marcus Thornton has been impressive for the Rockets, averaging 17 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists.
Despite a solid preseason, Thornton was unable to crack the rotation during the Rockets first two games. After an injury to forward Terrence Jones, however, Thornton was inserted into the starting lineup, and established himself as the Rockets most consistent offensive weapon.
Amid the Rocket’s struggle to shoot the ball, Thornton has been the Rockets one bright spot, shooting 45% from behind the arc and 50% everywhere else. As a team, the Rockets have shot a lousy 27.4% from three even though they shoot more threes than just about every other team in the league.
If he keeps up his early success, Thornton looks to be an ideal fit to back up superstar James Harden off the bench. As the Rockets struggled to find offense while Harden rested last season, Thornton was picked up in hopes that he could fill that void.
Thornton has found a way to thrive everywhere on the court. Not only is he hitting threes, but he is also disrupting passing lanes, finding open teammates, and driving the ball to the basket. It is no coincidence that that Rockets have been competitive in each of the three games he has played.
Check out highlights from Marcus Thornton's 10 point first quarter. https://t.co/odj9O3udp5
— Houston Rockets (@HoustonRockets) November 5, 2015
When the Rockets get healthy, Thornton will be relegated back to the bench where he will be the 10th player in a deep rotation. Much of last season McHale utilized an 8-to-9 man rotation. Given Thornton’s level of play thus far, the coaching staff has to find time for him on the court, especially considering the way the rest of the Rockets have shot the ball.
So far this season Thornton has the highest offensive rating (1.3) and player efficiency rating (17.3) of any Rocket guard. He is also averaging more points than any player besides James Harden.
Perhaps the best thing about Thornton’s offensive game is that it opens up the floor for the rest of his teammates. Harden is the only Rocket outside of Thornton who can shoot the three well and also score off of the dribble in a half court set. Most of the rest of the team’s points come from spot up threes, buckets down lows, or plays in transition.
Thornton is a perfect fit within the Rockets system. So far, his level of production has outweighed his cost, making him a steal for the Rockets. It will be interesting to see how he is used in the rotation once the Rockets’ bigs return from injury. For now, Thornton and the Rockets will try to return to the .500 mark as they make a west coast trip this weekend to take on the Los Angeles Clippers and Sacramento Kings.
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