As diversion from the relocation drama, the uncertainty, and the apprehension Kings fans are all feeling over the future of the team, and pending developments for better or, better (think positive), I offer a quick post on what draws us all to this site in the first place: the NBA and our Sacramento Kings. Let’s talk, blog, speculate, rationalize and irrationalize over our newest acquisition, and potential core contributor in the days, weeks and seasons ahead: Marcus Thornton, aka MT23!
His first game was solid, if not spectacular, with 14 points in 25 minutes on 4 for 8 FGs, 3 for 5 three pointers, an assist, a block and a steal. Beyond the box score and a little relevant perspective follows.
One of the simplest plays in basketball seems to be among the most challenging for the current group of Kings in our so-far 14 win season extravaganza: the post entry pass.
Beno Udrih struggles to find the proper passing angle, and seems unwilling to make the pass unless the post player, JT Cuz or Sammy, has his defender double suplex pinned and cryogenically sealed.
Tyreke Evans refuses to make the post entry pass often because, after all, why pass into the post when you can drive into two waiting defenders for a 10.5 degree of difficulty lay-up attempt? Omri and Donte are not known for their passing wizardry. Pooh Jetter and Luther Head are serviceable, but are not on the court long enough to matter.
Our frontline bigs trying to feed from the post? Hide your eyes and scurry the women and children out of the room. Someday and hopefully soon, if his accelerated learning curve is an indication, Big Cuz will be a high level threat and efficient facilitator from elbow and free throw line extended. Until then, nights like last, seven TOs in about twice as many touches, is frustrating to witness.
Enter Marcus Thornton.
Impression #1: The Small Sample Size Institute approves of this impression: MT23 can feed the post with ease. As a threat to launch from ‘3’, and a wide body with low center of gravity, Thornton repeatedly fed the ball into the post at low passing angle to keep ball within safe reach out of outstretched defenders. Simple and effective. And an underrated skill. Play sets initiated with minimal delay into the post lead to player movement and quality shots. Even when his shot is not ‘on’, MT23 can help the offense run smoothly in this regard.
Impression #2: If I did not know any better, I would guess Thornton is a five year veteran, not in his second year with a handful of DNP-CDs: 12 bench warming nights this year, and 9 no-go’s as a rookie. Yet in 25 minutes with brand new teammates and plays, he displayed poise and presence that all good players possess, a la Reke (most of the time), and not the frenetic level of activity that opposes one’s own skill level, a la JT (much of the time).
Poise in the context of basketball is synonymous with playing at your own pace and own terms. Poised players dictate action on both ends of the court. The Kings as a collective unit need to increase their poise, and MT23 seems ready to contribute.
As further stats-based evidence of poise, MT23 has a low TO (turnover) rate per 40 minutes: 9.25. The league average is 14.01. Only Cisco at 7.91 has lower TO rate on the Kings. The Kings range from 12 to 18, with Sammy and Cuz at the high end. Beno and Tyreke are at 12.5 and 14.7, respectively. Whether MT23 becomes a more willing and adept overall passer remains to be seen. His assist rate leaves more to be desired. But for a team who gives away too many possessions unforced, don’t expect MT23 to add significantly to this total.
Impression #3: MT23 was relished to the bench in New Orleans by Coach Monty Williams for a lack of defense, allegedly. What I saw was a player with the makings of an adequate to good defender: quick feet, quicker than Beno, granted not saying a lot, and strong body, stronger than Pooh and Luther, granted once again, to prevent penetration into lane. While listed at 6’5", MT23 looks close in height to Beno, or 6’3".
With the Hornets, his size would be understandably problematic. With Chris Paul logging the majority of minutes at PG, MT23 would be assigned to defend the SG if they were to share time on the court. Paul might be 6’0". Tyreke is not as vertically challenged. Tyreke can shift to defend SGs when match-ups dictate to allow MT23 to guard similarly (smaller) sized players.
Hope for Kings fans: MT23 is not a bad defender. In fact, he is pretty good. He was just asked to defend out of position in his time with the Hornets.
Impression #4: The COC approves of the following impression: Dude can shoot. MT23 has compact and fluid delivery with little to no hesitation. His strong base allows him to secure spot, rise over defenders, and release with optimal arc. His aforementioned poise means he allows himself to concentrate upon the hoop in normal conditions and under duress. PW will give MT23 the green light over the final 25 games of the season, and he looks eager to take it. What is the COC? The Captain Obvious Committee, obviously.
Impression #5: I have heard a few names tossed out there as to whom MT23 reminds them as a player. Jerry Reynolds mentioned Bobby Jackson in last nights telecast. Maybe, but MT23 looks bigger and stronger than B-Jax by 25 pounds. As an aside, I would imagine B-Jax gave his endorsement of the trade, likely seeing MT23 up close and personal during the pre-draft process. Another name is Jason Terry. In terms of instant offense off the bench, perhaps. But different body types. And Terry has more handling skills. The Bobcat announcers mention Vinnie "The Microwave’ Johnson. Slightly before my time, so I will have to defer to a Piston fan or long-time NBA observer for insight.
When I think of Bull-in-a-China-Shop undersized SG guard with a sweet outside touch, I think of Eric Gordon (6’3" 215 lbs) and Ben Gordon (6’3" 200 lbs). MT23 is the same size (6’3" 205 lbs) with similar skill. While I believe a player needs to make a name for himself first and foremost, it only helps to mimic what works for more advanced peers. Just as Jerry Reynolds insightfully suggested Omri pattern his game after Hedo Turkolu to become a more well-rounded and dynamic contributor, MT23 may wish to study The Gordons', their pet moves and nuanced tendencies, to elevate his game and chart his career course steadily upward.
Here's hoping last night was the first step for MT23 towards a long and winning tenure as potent scoring force, poised core contributor, and complementary backcourt running mate to Reke.
Welcome to the Sacramento Kings, MT23!