51 Games Played, 34.9 MPG, 18.7 PPG, .438 FG%, .345 3P%, 3.7 RPG, 1.9 APG, 1.4 STL, 0.2 BLK
3 years, $24.2 million remaining
Marcus Thornton may not be the best player on the Sacramento Kings, but he's certainly the best scorer. Since coming to the Kings in February of 2010, Thornton has led the team in scoring and made it look easy to boot. The team is also a lot better when he plays, as evidenced by the 3-12 mark (.200) during the games he missed last season compared to 19-32 (.373) when he did play.
The Kings backcourt is at a crossroads though. Last season, by sheer necessity, the team played a three guard lineup most of the time with Thomas, Thornton and Evans starting. While that lineup was pretty strong offensively, it suffered on the defensive side of the ball due to Evans being out of position and Thornton simply not being a good defender.
If you've watched Marcus Thornton play, you can see that while he doesn't have the size or wingspan of a typical NBA shooting guard, he should still be a good defender. He's strong and quick, and has a good knack for picking the ball. However, he doesn't put in nearly the effort on defense as he does on offense, and until he does, I think that means he's destined for more of a sixth man role.
Being a sixth man shouldn't be considered a demotion. Quite a few sixth men still manage to play 30+ minutes a game off the bench, and with Thornton's scoring ability, the team will be hard pressed not to use him as much as possible. But the team needs to be more balanced, and as of right now, the bench needs a scoring boost while the starting lineup needs more defense.
This is of course, a decision for Coach Keith Smart. The Kings still don't have the most appealing choices at the Small Forward option. However, I'm of the opinion that being able to bring in someone of Marcus Thornton's caliber off the bench will strengthen the team, as there won't be such a huge drop-off in production when the subs come in. At any point in the game, the Kings should have at least one of Isaiah Thomas, Tyreke Evans or Marcus Thornton, and probably should have two of them in at a time. There still will be plenty of the old three guard lineup as well.
Will Marcus Thornton see it as a slight if he is demoted? I don't know, that's for Marcus to decide. I know that if I was an NBA player, I'd rather be a starter than a bench player. Starters tend to get more guaranteed playing time since they start both halves. They get their names called at the beginning of games. But aside from those superficial aspects, I think that Marcus just wants to win basketball games, and this could be a move that helps the team win games. Besides, Marcus already is locked in to his contract, so there's no need to worry about that anymore. Marcus can make a name for himself as a stellar bench player in the vein of James Harden, Jason Terry and Manu Ginobili, players who easily have starter talent, but have come off the bench for the benefit of the team.
It will definitely be interesting to see what route Keith Smart chooses to go when deciding the backcourt rotation. Fortunately for him, it'll be a matter of having too much talent rather than little, which is a good problem to have.