In his third game in a Nets' uniform, Marcus Thornton went off for 25 points against the Bucks. He was quickly dabbed the Nets secret weapon. He followed that performance up with a dud against the Bulls, scoring just three points in twenty minutes of action. That is Marcus Thornton for you, streaky as hell. But when he is on, he is one of the most fun players to watch.
Thornton's scoring totals in Brooklyn say it all: 9, 10, 25, 3, 20, 4, 27; an inconsistent effort but one that has opened up the Nets offense. Thornton's quick release on his jump shot has given the Nets a go-to threat on the perimeter. Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Paul Pierce all have a deft shooting stroke, but all have much more responsibility than to just put up shots from beyond the arc. Thornton, though, has a very simple playbook. When Jason Kidd was asked if Thornton has become familiar with the plays after going for a Nets-career-high 27, Kidd said, "He knows them. It's called, ‘Shoot it.'"
Thornton has a lot of confidence in himself as a scorer. He is listed as 6'4", but it seems that is a bit generous. Despite his lack of size, Thornton believes he can score over anybody.
Thornton clearly isn't rattled by facing players with size on him, for he can put a crisp step-back move on them, or just take them to the basket.
In the above clip, the Nets let Thornton bring the ball up and create the offense for himself. This was Thornton's fourth and fifth points in a row that was apart of his run that saw him score 13 straight points for Brooklyn. The Nets had confidence in Thornton, who was clearly the hot hand, to have the offense run through him.
One type of play where Thornton has found the most success is the pick-and-roll. Through Sunday, 17.8% of Thornton's possessions are as the ball handler in the pick-and-roll. In those situations, he's scored 1.5 points per possession and converted nearly 70% of his shots. Thornton ran almost the same amount of pick-and-rolls in Sacramento, but shot 39% in those sets. Thornton's quick trigger gives him the ability to shoot his jumper coming quickly off of screens. This example shows that Thornton is always looking for his shot and doesn't hesitate when open.
Thornton is a great fit in the Nets small-ball lineup. He can play strictly out on the perimeter and complement a player like Shaun Livingston who likes to drive hard to the basket, But he also looks outside to find a wing for an open shot. The Nets can run down screens like they do in the set below to open up Thornton, who needs just a small amount of space to get his shot up.
Thornton has shown he's willing to learn the Nets offense and stay within its parameters. He hasn't forced many shots. When he does get excited about his shot and maybe gets a little too ahead of himself, he is usually on a hot streak. Thornton also possesses a fine basketball IQ. He can read the defense and followed Jason Collins' lead as the Nets' seven-footer set another back-screen on Thornton's man.
Something else that has benefited Thornton greatly is how the Nets create turnovers. The Nets have forced 102 turnovers in 4 games, more than 26 per game. Thornton has leaked out often and has gotten easy looks for himself. In the six games through the Kings game, 26% of his offense in Brooklyn has been in transition, per Synergy.
Thornton's minutes have been hit-or-miss on the Nets thus far. In some games, Alan Anderson has gotten into the game before Thornton despite Anderson's recent struggles (which appear to have ended on Sunday night). Thornton has taken much of Anderson's minutes. The reliable Anderson has been playing 11 minutes per game since the All Star break while Thornton has played 24. Anderson and Thornton each have a defensive rating of 110, but Thornton is known for being a poor defender. For his career, Thornton has a defensive rating of 112. The only advantage Anderson has is his defense, but with the Nets playing so well on D, that isn't as big an issue.
The Marcus Thornton we have seen in Brooklyn has been very promising, much more of an enticing asset than he appeared with the Kings ... at least this season. The Nets got him for almost nothing, and he has made the acquisition worthwhile despite his inconsistency. If Thornton continues to look for his shot and stay within the Nets' offensive scheme, the Nets have found their sparkplug off the bench that they have been looking for as of late.