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30Q: Can Marcus Thornton live up to his contract?

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Marcus Thornton's contract has been an issue of debate in recent seasons. With Tyreke Evans out of the picture, can Thornton put those concerns to rest?

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As we continue our September series of questions, we turn our attention to Marcus Thornton.  There's some debate over whether or not Thornton is overpaid.  Last year, Marcus Thornton was reduced to a bench role with Tyreke Evans assuming the starting shooting guard role.  This season, Tyreke is gone, and Thornton is battling Ben McLemore and Jimmer Fredette for minutes.  It's easy to assume Thornton will see a larger role.  With that in mind, can he live up to his contract?

To begin looking at this question, it's important to note what Thornton is and isn't.  Thornton is a volume shooter, a guy who thrives on the big shot.  That's a valuable guy to have, but he's been frustrating for Kings fans with his lack of passing and his struggles on defense.  Thornton puts forth effort on D, but just isn't skilled.  Better than unskilled and lacking effort, but still frustrating.  If Coach Malone can improve Thornton's defense, Thornton will almost assuredly live up to his contract.

But let's assume that, in general, Thornton remains the player he has been.  Last season Thornton marked a PER of 16.31.  Of course, PER is a metric build for Thornton.  It rewards volume scorers and doesn't knock for defensive issues.  Understanding that, though, Thornton still ranked 11th among shooting guards.

Thornton ranked ahead of guys like JJ Redick, Eric Gordon, Ray Allen, DeMarr DeRozan, Jordan Crawford, and Joe Johnson.  There are players ahead of Thornton that earn less than Thornton.  There are players worse than Thornton that make far more.

Marcus Thornton will earn just over $8 million this season.  Next season he'll earn around $8.5 million.  I'd say Thornton's scoring punch, if used appropriately, is well worth $8 million a year.  And if Thornton fails to live up to his contract this year, or if McLemore earns the starting role, Thornton becomes an $8.5 million expiring contract, an extremely valuable commodity on the trade market.

Thornton's contract may have been an overpayment when he was signed.  Now, though?  As the presumed starting shooting guard, a role in which Thornton has previously been the team's leading scorer, I have little concern about his value this season or next.