Marcus Thornton's contract isn't as bad as it seems

USA TODAY Sports

Lil' Buckets had a rough 2012-13 in the aggregate, but his contract still looks rather fair and shouldn't be a burden.

All of Marcus Thornton's per-game numbers crashed in 2012-13 because one particular per-game number -- minutes per game -- crashed. Thornton went from 35 minutes per game in 2011-12 (the first year of his 4-year, $31 million deal) to 24 in 2012-13. He moved to a bench role as Tyreke Evans slid to shooting guard, which is the position at which Thornton started every game he played in 2011-12. That bench role came with a whole lot of inconsistent minutes: Thornton had 20 games with fewer than 20 minutes. He had two such games in 2011-12.

But when you look at Thornton's numbers on a per-minute basis, he performed pretty much exactly how he did in 2011-12. I mean, it's almost uncanny how close the numbers are. Points per 36 minutes fell from 19.3 to 19.1. Rebounds per 36 stayed level at 3.8. Assists per 36 fell from 2.0 to ... 1.9. Steals per 36 from 1.4 to ... 1.3. His shooting actually improved: his effective field goal percentage (which adjusts for the added value of threes) rose to a strong .520, and his True Shooting percentage landed at a career best .552. Those improvements largely came from a higher three-point percentage (.372) and improved free throw shooting (career best .881). And all of these basically identical per-minute numbers came as we all saw Thornton more or less sulk through a season in which he never looked happy to be coming off of the bench.

Thornton made $7 million in 2011-12, and he earned it based on his play. He made $7.5 million in 2012-13, and he's due $8 million and $8.5 million in the next two seasons. If he didn't live up to his contract in 2012-13, it's only because his minutes shrunk. One can fairly assume that if his minutes went back up, he'd be earning out that contract in future years. But even for a sixth man scorer, $8 million isn't outrageous. It's not great, and someone like Nate Robinson (who, full disclosure, I've lobbied against in the past) is making $1 million doing the same or more than Marcus.

This will all surely factor in the decisions of the new front office (assuming there is a new front office) when it comes to re-signing Tyreke Evans, trading Jimmer Fredette and drafting a two-guard like Ben McLemore or Victor Oladipo. But as we debate all of those things, it's important to note that we do have a pretty solid offensive-minded two-guard locked up for two more years.

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