Marcus Thornton, Detonation Predetermination — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews | Wizards Blog Truth About

Marcus Thornton, Detonation Predetermination — 2016-17 Wizards Player Previews

Updated: October 25, 2016

The 2016-17 NBA season is almost here … and upon last check, they are still going to allow the Washington Wizards to participate. So the TAI crew is firing up the pixel makers and churning out player previews, or rather, “Wizards Player Haters’ Previews” — which is not to say that we are hating on the players or the game, but that this season’s version of the Wizards is ready to hate on all those who stand in their way. Up now: Marcus Thornton, via Conor Dirks (@ConorDDirks). 


At some point in the trenches of a long season, a coach may damn his strategy and try something different.

But that would not be Marcus Thornton.

At some point in the trenches of a long season, when the slog has turned gruesome and players are dressed in suits rather than jerseys, the situation may necessitate that a coach try something different.

But that would still not be Marcus Thornton.

Yet, at some point in the trenches of a long season, when the slog has turned gruesome and players are dressed in suits rather than jerseys, and when a young player has turned the ball over four consecutive times and then refused to make eye contact with his coach, a coach may let his own eyes roll into the back of his own head. That coach may release his grip on the universal coaching symbol of reality, the clipboard, and imagine the sound of its thin pane of recycled wood composite clapping against both the floor and the metal of the clip holding his abandoned plans. He may recover briefly, look with desperation to his assistants, and feebly hold up his hand even as he falls into a waking sleep.

At that moment, as a dark pall falls over the parquet and time slows, as the announcer’s voice booms and drags across the gravitic center of the arena, Marcus Thornton will rise from his well-cushioned chair and start the shot-taker’s incantation, preparing to check in.

One would hope that this moment is rare.

Thornton did not impress in four preseason appearances, shooting 33.3 percent from the field, and launching over half of his shots from behind the 3-point line (where he shot a respectable but below-average 31.6%). He was who he is at this stage of his career, a not-as-round-as-he-looks grapefruit of a player, who does not take any minute in the game for granted but also does not pass, or turn down shots, or do anything other than shoot the ball. Thornton is every hippie’s worst fear of microwaves made manifest and highly radioactive, leaking years out of a fan’s life with every minute of exposure.

The Wizards announced that they were re-signing Thornton on July 28, 2016. It was the most puzzling signing of an offseason that saw Washington nobly revamp and improve a weak second unit after they missed narrowly on franchise-alterer Al Horford and got Debo’d by Kevin Durant following two years of happy-eyed starfucking. I will never forget where I was the day that Thornton signed with the Wizards. I was in a place that I’ve already forgotten.

Thornton’s numbers in fourteen games as a Wizard last season were better than his performance on the eye test, shooting just over 39 percent from the floor and 33 percent from behind the 3-point line, along with around 2.5 rebounds per game appearance. Thornton rarely looked to pass, and instead often rolled like a pendulous keg of beer around the 3-point line and back again, sometimes with ball in hand, looking to launch. It’s perhaps worth noting that this style of play has carried over, and that the results during the preseason were less than encouraging: Thornton averaged a team-worst 6.3 turnovers per 100 possessions. Thornton also earned his gunner’s label: he averaged 2.8 assists per 100 possessions.

It will be said that players like Thornton have value, that they can kickstart a second unit or eat your leftovers when you’re not looking (testing that second saying for market viability, the author reserves intellectual property rights). And in one or two games this season that myth will be made into reality, a wormhole of conventional told-you-so opening on your television screen. Perhaps you have an uncle who will remind you that Mr. Thornton is underrated.

And in those times, Marcus Thornton may indeed be valuable. If he proves to be an end-of-the-bench (and end-of-the-bench that is growing with three undrafted rookies on the roster) player, then the opportunity cost of his signing will be mitigated. In recent years, players at the end of Washington’s bench have not grown or developed with the team, and any success they’ve found has been fleeting or located in another NBA city. It hardly holds that amateur writers such as myself should be able to sensationally criticize a player whose in-season value will be that of last season’s J.J. Hickson (8.7 minutes per game in 15 appearances) or Jarrell Eddie (5.6 minutes per game in 26 appearances). This expectation was borne out in TAI’s “Order of Importance,” with Thornton ranking 12th out of 12 Wizards in order of importance to the season.

But the fear is that Marcus Thornton will be counted on to contribute meaningful minutes. The veteran scorer sometimes serves as a coach’s broken crutch, a quasi-solution without a strategy that can serve as temporary balm to a deepening wound or can serve as a mega-drill opening that same wound and threatening the bone.

The ball-handling backcourt in Washington is complicated, with Burke backing up Wall, and Satoransky backing up Burke, but also backing up Beal as a combo guard. Then there’s Sheldon McClellan, newly minted Wizard, who should see minutes at the 2 and handle the ball as well.

If Thornton’s number is Scott Brooks’ siren song rather than the sound of the garbage disposal chewing up a fork, the Wizards will likely be in trouble. Same goes if a Beal injury inches Thornton into action ahead of other players mentioned above. But, if used sparingly during games and heftily during practice, Thornton’s low-salary signing could prove useful yet.

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Conor Dirks
Reporter / Writer / Co-Editor at TAI
Conor has been with TAI since 2012, and aids in the seamless editorial process that brings you the kind of high-octane blogging you have come to expect from this rad website. The Wizards have been an assiduous companion throughout his years on the cosmic waiver wire. He lives in D.C. and is day-to-day.