Marcus Thornton’s Impact on the Nets: Floor Spacing and Pure Scoring Ability

By: Anthony Pignatti

Remember the trade deadline deal that sent Marcus Thornton from Sacramento to Brooklyn for oft injured Jason Jerry and last big off the bench Reggie Evans? Of course you do. In 3 of his 8 games with Brooklyn, Thornton has scored 20+, and has done so fashionably I might add. Most Nets fans had an opinion about the trade. Some were down about the trade, saying that we took on another bad contract for a guy shooting less than 40% on the year. Others were excited to bring in a guy who’s capable of lighting up the floor as a 6th or 7th man off the bench while keeping in mind that our 2016 flexibility would remain unaffected by the deal (the summer Kevin Durant can become a FA). While he has been rather sporadic in his production, he has proven his worth in a Nets uniform just 8 games in. I’m here to tell (and show) you how beneficial the move has been for Brooklyn.


Let us first look at some of the numbers, because they’re telling in and of themselves. Prior to the trade, Marcus was shooting a career-low 38.1% from the field on 8.1 FGA in 24 minutes. Since his move to BK, he has shot a career-high 46.9% on 10.1 FGA in just under 24 minutes of action. It’s clear, and Jason Kidd has referenced this following the game against the Kings, that he has the green light. This is why the Nets brought Marcus in; to provide a scoring punch off the bench and kick-start an offense that had a tendency to stall at times. Thornton is not a consistent, 12-15 points a night kind of guy, however. He is a streaky shooter who can shoot you out of games just as easily as he can shoot you into games. With that said, his value on this Nets roster has been nothing short of spectacular thus far.
I broke down some plays of Marcus in the game against Milwaukee, a game in which he torched the Bucks for 25 points on 8-13 shooting in about 24 minutes.
Note for Mobile Viewers: The following clips may load as full videos on your mobile device. Each clip is referenced with a time for you to manually jump if needed.
Our first clip shows the benefit of adding another capable 3-point shooter on the floor.
Starts at 0:17
AK makes his move and drives into the lane, forcing three Bucks defenders to collapse. Kirilenko does a good job of recognizing where his shooters are on the floor. He finds Anderson in the left corner for a decent look at a 3. Just as the Bucks defender rotates to Anderson, he swings it over to Marcus Thornton who is parked on the left wing for a wide open 3. With 3+ capable shooters on the floor (in this case DWill, Anderson, and Thornton), spacing is improved and can be taken advantage of with quality ball movement.
The second clip is another example of floor spacing and how Marcus can use his shooting ability to benefit himself or his teammates.
Starts at 1:04
A high PNR is set with DWill and your royal Blatcheness. Thornton starts the play in the right corner, but works his way to the right wing to make himself available to receive the pass. Blatche sets an excellent screen, and this holds up DWill’s defender. Blatche’s man now must help on the ball-handler. As Blatche rolls to the rim, Thornton’s man must help to prevent an easy dunk or layup. With Thornton in a position to receive the pass and his man helping on Blatche, Deron finds him on the wing for an open look at a 3. Thornton’s man, who must respect his ability to shoot from deep, closes out hard to prevent a 3PA. Marcus recognizes the hard close-out and darts to the rim for a layup. Had Thornton’s man stuck with him on the wing and not sagged off of him to help on Blatche’s roll, Deron would have found Blatche right at the rim for an uncontested slam (or probably a fancy layup because that’s how Dray Live rolls). Again, floor spacing (and the much quicker release of Marcus than Alan Anderson’s) has proved to significantly help the offense.
Analysis of the benefits to adding another shooter/scorer like Marcus can only go so far. We have seen his ability to just ‘wow’ you with the way in which he can boost an offense by compiling his own 13-0 Marcus Thornton runs. I’ve compiled 4 clips, one from the Bucks game and the other three from the Kings game. These clips need no further explanation. Enjoy.
Starts at 1:15
Starts at 1:47
Starts at 2:30
Starts at 2:46
Marcus Thornton has injected this team with a jolt of energy and offensive scoring punch it desperately needed. His floor spacing opens up driving lanes for the likes of DWill, Paul, Joe, and even Andray. With this team forcing as many turnovers as they have recently, Thornton’s quickness allows him to get up the floor in a hurry for a transition pull-up or layup – or again- space the floor for a teammate to get to the rim. And of course, when there’s a busted play and no one to turn to, throw him the ball and watch him create something out of nothing. His scoring ability could be difference between getting past a Toronto or Chicago team (Nate Robinson, anyone?) in the postseason.

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