Marcus Thornton: 2011's Most Forgotten Upcoming Star
From winning All Rookie in 2009 to receiving praise from Lebron James to being out of the league by 2019, many NBA fans have forgotten about 2011's upcoming star shooting guard .
As a Sacramento Kings fan throughout the 2010's, there were more negatives than positives in every single category. While the early 2010's had much promise due to upcoming play with the 2010 ROY in Tyreke Evans, the emergence of Demarcus Cousins, and the two latest rookie point guards with the BYU sensation, Jimmer Fredette and the short, but hungry Isaiah Thomas, there was one player in the 2010-2011 season that outperformed everyone else in Sacramento looking to become a top scorer in the NBA: newly acquired Marcus Thornton.
The 2009-2010 draft class has been looked at as one of the best ones since the infamous 2003 draft, producing talent such as James Harden, Stephen Curry, Demar Derozan, Jrue Holiday, and Serge Ibaka. Marcus Thornton, the young shooter from LSU, was drafted 43rd overall to the Miami Heat before being traded to the New Orleanes Hornets (not the Pelicans, they changed their name in 2013) for a 2010 2nd rounder and cash.
Throughout Thornton's rookie season in New Orleans, it was known quickly that Thornton was going to be a pure scorer throughout the league, averaging 14.5 PPG, ranking fifth in scoring among rookies and shooting over 37% from three, ranking second behind Stephen Curry for rookies who took over 300 attempts (According to Basketball Reference). With his ability to drive and shooting off the dribble, Thornton was looking to become a steal for the Hornets as a 2nd round talent. (Warning: the video below does contain explicit language in the songs played)
After such a hot rookie season, expectations were high for the sophomore guard, but things never seemed to pan out. Thornton began to struggle mightily in New Orleans as his spot in the rotation fell due to having Marco Bellinelli and Jarrett Jack ahead of him, only averaging 7.8 PPG and in need of a fresh start. Thornton's wish was granted on Feburary 23rd, 2011, being dealt to the young, fast paced Sacramento Kings, in return for Carl Landry.
Once Thornton was moved to Sacramento, a team in desperate need for scoring, things seemed to fit in just perfect for Thornton, finishing off the final 27 games averaging 21.3 PPG, giving the Kings their true replacement at shooting guard after trading Kevin Martin to the Houston Rockets for Carl Landry two years ago.
After such a hot finish to the end of the season, the Kings added more perimeter shooting with drafting Jimmer Freddette, in hopes of creating more space for Thornton and Demarcus Cousins. The Kings began to hope that a full off season for Thornton to get adjusted to the Kings uptempo offense, the 2011-2012 season was poised for Thornton to become a top 10 shooting guard in the NBA, and he showed flashes of the damage he can cause in the NBA.
Throughout the condensed 2011-2012 NBA season for Thornton, the flashes of potential kept showing as Thornton ranked in the top 30 in the NBA and 5th among all shooting guards in scoring averaging 18.7 PPG, 3.7 rebounds, and 1.9 assists per game, even scoring 33 points on the Lakers to finish off the season and possibly the final game played in Sacramento as rumors went around the Kings will be moving to Anaheim. Even for a franchise as dysfunctional as the Kings, the bright spots were still there with an angry DeMarcus Cousins and Marcus Thornton carrying the offensive load.
As the 2011-2012 season wrapped up and the Kings weren't moving to Anaheim, players would still not know where they would be as new reports surfaced the Kings will be sold and moved to Seattle. While this was a tough time for the players and fans to understand going into the 2012-2013 season, no-one took a tougher hit from this confusion than Marcus Thornton.
Going into the 2012-2013 season, Kings coach Keith Smart made a multitude of changes to the Kings roster, including sending Thornton to the bench to become the sixth man which set Thornton back, creating frustration in the locker room. Although Thornton would show flashes of his 2011-2012 self, getting the nickname "lil buckets" from the greatest of all time, Lebron James after scoring 36 against the Heat, consistency began to become a problem for Thornton's season.
Thornton would finish off the year with career lows in points, rebounds, field goal percentage, and assists, lack of offensive and defensive consistency began to plague the once promising shooting guard, leaving Kings fans to get quite upset with Thornton's play. While Thornton still averaged over 12 points per game to wrap up the season and some fans being upset with his play, no-one would have guessed that would have begun the immense decline of Thornton's career, as Thornton declined in the 2013-2014 season to the point he would be moved to the Brooklyn Nets at the trade deadline for an aging Reggie Evans and a Jason Terry who refused to even fly to Sacramento to meet the team.
Thornton's Post Kings Tenure
After Thornton's three and a half year tenure was up with the Kings, finding stability on a team was rough, being moved around to five different teams within three years. Thrornton started off hot in Brooklyn as the Nets were in desperate need for wing shooting with a core of aging veterans pushing to make the postseason, then fizzling out in the playoffs. After Thornton's quick stint in Brooklyn, he would be moved to Boston, Phoenix, Houston, and then the Wizards in 2017 as his final NBA spot.
As Thornton's numbers would average from 6PPG - 10PPG, the same offensive consistency issues continue to plague him everywhere he went, starting off hot, then cooling off like the exact opposite of icy hot. The biggest thing Thornton may be known for is throughout the New England area as the player given up to acquire Isiaha Thomas, who helped lead the Celtics back to relevancy throughout 2015.
After playing for the Wizards in the 2016-2017 season, Thornton had played in the G-League for the Grand Rapids Drive in 2018, averaging 21.5 PPG, and looking poised to make an NBA comeback (check this out to read more about it).
As Thornton has now turned 32 and Father Time is always unforgiving (unless your Lebron), time for a comeback is tough for Thornton to overcome after not playing in the 2019-2020 season. I'll always have a personal soft spot for the "Bayou Bomber" as Kings analyst Jerry Reynolds would call him. Thornton was an explosive guard with tight handles and a beautiful shot that made being a Kings fan more enjoyable as the Kings were considered to be a "dumpster fire" at that time (some may aruge they still are). While we still sit without sports throughout this quarantine mess, its good to look back at the good days as a kid with your favorite players that almost no-one really remembers and how they should have become the next, great thing in the NBA.