Right before the start of the current G League, there were a few stories related to the league that caught the eye of the general NBA audience. Most of that attention was dedicated to how some NBA alums were looking to use the G League as a way to make their way back into the Association.
Sure, this has been a pretty common occurrence for a while. However, the fact that players like 2005 NBA Rookie of the Year Emeka Okafor and former Celtics starting center Kendrick Perkins were going to the G League still caught the eyes of a lot of basketball fans.
Around three months since the start of the G League season, the performance of those two players have been rather inconsistent. Okafor has moved to the second unit where he’s still looking solid while Perkins has been a solid role player on an extremely inconsistent Canton Charge team. As Perkins and Okafor have both experienced an up-and-down season, there’s one former NBA veteran that’s really shined in the G League this year.
That honor goes to current Grand Rapids Drive guard Marcus Thornton, who came to the G League after playing with seven separate NBA teams. In his seven years in the NBA, Thornton averaged 11.9 points and 2.8 rebounds on 42% from the field and 36% from beyond the arc in only 23 minutes per game. Although those are decent numbers for a 2nd unit guard, he eventually got pushed out of the NBA in favor of younger guards with higher upside.
While that might seem like a sign to make your way to Europe or China for the ability to get paid good money while still playing playing basketball, Thornton decided to follow the likes of Okafor and Perkins and play in the G League. That risk seems to be playing off for Thornton as he stands as the favorite for 6th man of the year.
He stands as a likely winner for that award due to him putting up 18.9 points and 1.5 steals per game on 50% from the field and 39% from beyond the arc on 6.8 perimeter attempts Thornton’s efficiency looks even better when you factor him maintaining a 62% True Shooting Percentage, which ranks in the top-15 among G League guards.
Thornton’s great offensive play shouldn’t really shock anyone, but its surprising to see how the 30-year-old has probably been playing the best basketball in his career. Although nothing has really changed about his approach or shooting stroke, he’s been a lot more consistent than he was during his NBA career.
Rather than having one huge game and then just being ice cold in the next week or two, Thornton has been a reliable scoring threat on a night-by-night basis. That stable efficiency has allowed him to shoot 39% from beyond the arc, which sits as the second best 3-point shooting percentage during his pro career.
Aside from consistency, the biggest improvement that Thornton has made in the G League is how he might actually be a quicker player than he was in the NBA. When you watch clips of his recent 32 point performance against the AC Clippers, its clear that his acceleration and quickness have improved over what we saw from him during his time in the NBA. Rather than rely on sly dribble moves or off-ball screens, Thornton is actually able to breeze his way past defenders.
Although there might a wide array of G League guards that stand as more appealing prospects, I think Thornton might be closer to making that return than most of those younger players. Unlike most G Leaguers, Thornton actually knows about what it takes to contribute to an NBA team on a night-by-night basis since he has 500+ games under his belt.
In addition to that, he seems to be in the best shape of his career as he might be quicker than ever. In addition to that, he’s maintained the level of consistency that we really haven’t seen from him in a long time. With those factors, I think its very likely that we’ll see Thornton back on an NBA court before the end of this season.