The Kings will reportedly trade for Hornets guard Marcus Thornton today, with Carl Landy as the price. Aykis broke down the trade Tuesday night. On the surface, it look like the Kings peddled Landry -- who was essentially acquired for Kevin Martin -- for a "new" Kevin Martin. Thornton is an offensive-minded score-first guard. Kevin Martin? Yep. Same description.
The similarities don't end there. Like Martin, Thornton has been great at limiting turnovers (7.3 percent of possessions in 2009-10). Like Martin, Thornton is a poor creator for others (10.3 percent turnover rate). Like Martin, about a third of Thornton's field goal attempts are three-pointers. Like Martin, Thornton shoots those three-pointers rather well. Like Martin, Thornton is dinged on his defense.
But unlike Martin, Marcus Thornton hasn't yet shown an ability to produce at an incredibly efficient rate. And that's the issue with thinking the Kings have solved their guard problems -- Thornton is like Martin, but he isn't Martin.
At age 22, in his second season, Martin had a True Shooting percentage of 60.4 percent. He was taking fewer than eight shots a game. Thornton was 22 as a rookie, and he took about 12 shots a game. His True Shooting percentage was 55 percent. That's a substantial difference, and you have to ask if we can expect that to improve over the next few season.
Rohan of At The Hive believes Thornton's rookie season might be closer to his ceiling than most would figure. If that's true, the Kings would have picked up a nice bench player worthy of 20 minutes a game, a brand of instant offense. Bobby Jackson without the passing or defense. Thornton is a player whose usage will naturally be high; he's not necessarily a gunner, as more than half of his makes are assisted. But he's not shy. Martin was shy early on; his usage rate was 17.4 percent that age-22 season. He had room and time to grow into his role.
Thornton's role per-possession is about as big as it will ever get (25 percent usage? holy ...), so his improvements in the box score will come with more minutes, and his improvements in per-possession stats will come with better efficiency. He's not nearly the foul-drawer Martin was at a comparable stage -- and that's going to be what holds Thornton back from being a highly efficient supplemental scorer. Thornton's effective field goal percentage last season (.517) is strong. But it's not being augmented by many free throws, so it won't reach elite status.
Now, the comparison to Martin, in the end, doesn't matter. What matters is how Thornton fits the current Kings roster, and specifically Tyreke Evans. It remains to be seen -- hopefully this season, if 'Reke responds well to treatment -- whether the Kings' backcourt issues have stemmed from the lack of a pass-first guard or from the lack of a good second guard. (I say that as Evans was bad when Beno Udrih was playing well, and vice versa. The Kings have rarely had two guards playing well at the same time.) If Evans just needs someone who can hit shots and be aggressive, Thornton could really, really work. If Evans needs someone to run the offense, well, Thornton's going to be a bench player. We'll see.
Either way, Thornton's probably going to start a game by the end of the week, assuming the trade goes official today.