How Much Does Thornton Help Brooklyn?
The NBA Trade Deadline has come and it has gone. And while Manhattan’s basketball franchise might have stood pat, Brooklyn took action.
The Nets made their move on Wednesday, when the team traded guard Jason Terry and forward Reggie Evans to the Sacramento Kings for guard Marcus Thornton.
Brooklyn will be the third team for the 26 year old Thornton, who played his college ball at LSU and was drafted 43rd in the 2009 NBA draft by the Miami Heat. His rights were promptly traded to the New Orleans Hornets during that same draft, where he spent his first two years. He was traded to Sacramento in 2011 for Carl Landry, and that’s where he had been until Wednesday.
So was this a good move for the Nets?
The Nets gave away two players that were playing about 15 minutes per game (and only played in about 60 percent of the Nets’ games) each and neither was playing well by any stretch of the imagination.
Reggie Evans is an interesting player. Completely nonexistent on offense (no really, he’s never averaged more than six points in his 12 year career), it’s like playing four on five on offense with Evans on the floor. That being said, Evans has never hung is hat on his offensive game. He’s a rebounder. In his limited minutes, he’s grabbed 21 percent of all the available rebounds. To explain that further, when Evans is on the floor, he grabs one of every five rebounds. That’s right up there with the league leaders. But Evans doesn’t play enough minutes to qualify to be among the Kevin Loves and DeAndre Jordans.
That’s the thing though, Evans can’t be on the floor enough to be a factor. It’s a crowded front court in Brooklyn with Garnett, Blatche and developing Mason Plumlee. Evans is below average defensively, and like we said, useless on offense. Per every 100 possessions, Evans is only scoring 97.8 points and giving up over 110. Simply put, head coach Jason Kidd can’t have a guy on the floor who can only rebound. And that’s saying something, because the Nets are the second worst rebounding team in the entire league.
Jason Terry, who came to Brooklyn as part of the blockbuster trade that brought over Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce, wasn’t supposed to be a major piece for these Nets. That being said, Terry has been useless. Averaging less than five points per game, and shooting only 36 percent for the field, the Celtics’ former spark plug has been unable to fill that role on Brooklyn.
Obviously, it’s difficult to have gaudy number when you play sparingly, but the Nets need a guard who can come off the bench and score. After proving he would not be able to fill that role, Terry has been riding the bench while Kidd goes with defensive minded units that include Alan Anderson or Shaun Livington over Terry. But, it was becoming more and more clear that Brooklyn needed a guard who could come off the bench and score some points for their second unit. Shaun Livingston is not that. Alan Anderson, who is more of a forward anyway, has seen his production tail off in the middle part of this season.
Enter Marcus Thornton.
Thornton does one thing in the NBA. Score the basketball. He proved that in his time with the Kings.
In his first half season with the Kings, the end of the 2010-2011 season, Thornton scored over 21 points per game and shot 45 percent from the field. In his first full year in Sacramento, 2011-2012, he continued to thrive offensively scoring 112 points every 100 possessions. His effective field goal percentage, which takes into account that three pointers are worth more than two-point field goals, was 50 percent. For perspective, Kevin Durant’s eFG% for this year is 56.5 percent.
But these last two years, Thornton’s offense has fallen off. This year, in 24 minutes per game for the Kings, Thornton is only averaging eight points, and his offensive rating has dropped to just 101 points per 100 possessions. This is not good for Thornton, because, to put it nicely, he does not play defense. Not one bit.
He’s never given up less than 108 points per 100 possessions in his career. He’s a major negative on the defensive end. Grantland’s Zach Lowe summed it up pretty well: “He still gets lost away from the ball, and he's always spacing out or ball-watching as his man cuts behind him. He has never shown any organized commitment to team defense or help schemes.”
Despite his recent drop off and defensive ineptitude, I am optimistic about Thornton’s potential on the Nets. Thornton has shown the ability to not only just score, but take over a game. He scored 42 points against the Indiana Pacers less than a month ago. This is the same Pacer team that has the league’s best defense.
This type of instant offense is something the Nets second unit hasn’t had since Paul Pierce was leading it on his way back from injury. Yes, Thornton takes a lot of shots. He can be a “chucker” at times. But the shots are there for him to take. In a unit with Livingston, Anderson, Kirilenko and Blatche, there are shots to be had.
The key for Thornton will be shot selection. And while this season on the Kings he has not shown a knack for taking the smartest shots, one can hope that playing on a team with stars like Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce will help Thornton realize that sometimes there are better shots on the floor than his.
Overall, if you’re the Nets, you can’t help but think you came out of this trade a winner. Getting rid of two non-factors for a potentially nice role player in Thornton can be seen as nothing but a positive. Worse case scenario, Thornton takes the spot of Evans and Terry on the bench, but I see the newest Net helping Brooklyn make a push to the top half of the Eastern Conference.
Matt Rosenfeld covers the Brooklyn Nets for WFUV Sports