There has never been any secrets on Marcus Thornton’s main role is on the hardwood and that would be his scoring. Marcus Thornton scored 1,347 points in his two seasons at LSU and averaged 13.4 points per game in 341 career NBA games with Sacramento and Brooklyn. The Celtics acquired Thornton along with Tyler Zeller in a 3-team trade with the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Brooklyn Nets. Thornton is a very underrated acquisition for the Celtics this offseason and will likely be a key difference maker for a team that isn’t going to be pushed over too easily. I’m looking at Thornton as a nice surprise for the Celtics and see great things out of him this season. Let’s glance at what we can expect for Marcus Thornton for this season and beyond.
Even though the Celtics didn’t add a mainstream sparkplug scorer in free agency, there is no doubt that Marcus Thornton can fill that role coming off the bench. Over the years, he has gained the reputation of hurling up shots, which is what the Celtics have really lacked last season. Like any other NBA player, Thornton will have his off nights and will have nights where he is just firing away from downtown shooting for 30-plus point games. He’s the type of player that will win games for the Celtics because of his scoring off the bench, or at least keep the momentum in Boston’s favor when the chips are down.
Not to confuse anybody with the other Marcus on the Celtics – Marcus Smart exactly – but I think that pairing Smart and Thornton will only help them feed off of each other’s success. I think it would only be to Smart’s benefit if he has the type of player that Thornton is to spot up for open jumpers at the appropriate times. Thornton has attempted 790 3-pointers in his career and sank 38.1 percent of them will be a terrific weapon for the Celtics off the bench, who ranked 27th in the NBA on catch-and-shoot 3-pointers last season. Smart is a great ball distributor and if the Celtics’ bench can force turnovers on a regular basis, the Thornton-Smart combination could be very dangerous in transition.
Marcus Thornton was once viewed as a promising young star in the NBA during his days in Sacramento after averaging 18.7 points per game in his 3rd year in the league. Unfortunately for Thornton, when he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets last season, he saw less than 20 minutes per game and was struggling to find his rhythm. Even for gifted shooters like Thornton, it can take time for him to get into and stay in a rhythm in a short time period. Brad Stevens has given Thornton the green light to just keep shooting and this is only going to help the Celtics win games regularly. Many score-first type of players struggle when they aren’t given a direct starting or bench role on a team, but Thornton can adjust whenever the time calls for it because Brad Stevens just wants him to keep shooting and scoring.
One of the most positive situations on having Marcus Thornton on the Celtics will be his expiring contract. I’m not allowed to state my opinion on who to trade out of Boston because of my status with the team, but I know most Celtics fans knowing “Trader Danny” will not be afraid to dangle a low-risk and high-reward like Thornton if he decides to go in another direction. Thornton will be making $8.6 million this season for the Celtics, which is being absorbed with the trade exception Danny Ainge used this past summer. It will be beneficial for the Celtics to see how the Marcus Thornton experiment will play out from now until the trade deadline in late February to see if he will be worth holding onto after the regular season is over. It’s too early to tell if this one-year rental will be something the Celtics will use beyond this season, but the way Thornton has played this preseason is giving them a reason to hold onto him for the next few seasons.
The Celtics were 9-14 last season in games decided by 5 points or less. Part of it was not getting key stops in the end and not having multiple go-to clutch scorers as well. The Celtics were 27th in the NBA last season in FG percentage with 3 minutes or less in the game. Jeff Green was considered the best player in those types of situations with a 44.4 shooting percentage. Thornton was better in those situations with a 47.6 shooting percentage between Sacramento and Brooklyn. Thornton tends to thrive in those moments and it will give the Celtics multiple options to work with when it comes to winning and losing close games.
Marcus Thornton played a great preseason with the Celtics with a few nice surprises that I’ve learned from him in addition. I’m excited to see more of Thornton during the regular season and he could be the key factor the Celtics have been looking for since last season.