Marcus Thornton: The Rodney Dangerfield of 2009-2010

Published: April 30, 2010

Okay, maybe saying he can’t get no respect is a bit over the top.  He was the 6th leading vote getter among rookies.  Still, he deserved to be on the first team, and his whole season has been a bit ridiculous considering his talent.

The season started with him sliding all the way to the 43rd pick of the draft, behind such luminaries as Victor Claver, Sergio Llull, Wayne Ellington, and Derrick Brown.  Then, after he tore up the Summer League and pre-season, he was benched by Byron Scott in favor of Morris Peterson and Devin Brown.  Wait, scratch that, he wasn’t just benched.  He was put on the inactive list and didn’t even dress. Then, when Jeff Bower took over and he got a nice 20 minutes a game, he still spent a lot of time playing behind Devin Brown and Morris Peterson.

Now the All-NBA Rookie teams have come out, and he has once again slipped out of the top tier of rookies.  Out of the 29 who could vote for him, only 6 coaches felt he was one of the top five rookies in the league. (voting ignores position, so that’s not an excuse) 15 apparently thought that Taj Gibson, the 9 point, 7 rebound forward in Chicago, was better.

Now – this isn’t trashing Taj, because he had a fine rookie season, but Marcus Thornton carried a huge load for the Hornets.  He sported the highest usage rate and scoring responsibility of any rookie not named Tyreke Evans or Brendan Jennings.  Only Stephen Curry took anywhere near the number of shots Thornton and managed to beat him at True Shooting Percentage.

To top it off, Thornton posted an absolutely insane turnover rate of 6.6%.  That’s the best rate of any guard in the league – and for a guy who handles the ball as much as he does, it’s flat out freakish.  Oh, and PER-wise, he finished 9th among shooting guards, ahead of much bigger names like Vince Carter, Kevin Martin, Rip Hamilton, Stephen Jackson, Monta Ellis, OJ Mayo, and Jason Terry.

Dave Berri, of course, could probably point you to some of the primary causes for Thornton’s troubles.  In his book Stumbling on Wins, he addresses the fact that playing shooting guard has a negative effect on your draft position and ability to win the Rookie of the Year.  He also shows that draft position has a significant impact on a players ability to win Rookie of the Year and get paid.  Thornton was therefore already fighting two pretty heavy strikes against him, and maybe I should be pleased he managed the second All-NBA Rookie team.

However you cut it, though, I expect it will motivate Thornton.  He told Niall before the season that he was going to take his draft position as motivation.  I don’t expect this will change that outlook any. 

Something to look forward to next year, yes?

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