In a Friday night matchup, the Grand Rapids Drive defeated the SIoux Falls SkyForce 107-91 at the Sanford Pentagon. Grand Rapids’ victory was led by NBA veteran Marcus Thornton who stood out as a lights out shooter from the opening tip off to the final buzzer. In 28 minutes, he put up 30 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals on 10-19 from field, 7-12 from 3 and 3-3 from the free throw line. With that victory, the Drive’s record improves to 21-20 and remain 1.5 games behind the Windy City Bulls for the top spot in the Central Division.
Arguably the biggest factor behind Grand Rapids staying in the playoff hunt is the aforementioned Thornton leading the way on the offensive end. Since the calendar turned to 2019, he’s averaged 23.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.8 steals on 47% from the field and 41% from beyond the arc on 8.6 attempts per game. With that solid shooting efficiency, he’s been able to maintain a very solid 59% True Shooting Percentage during that period of time.
Thornton’s combination of volume and efficiency has unsurprisingly paid significant dividends for the Grand Rapids Drive offense. Per 100 possessions, the Drive are 13 points better when the NBA vet is on the court (109.2 points per 100) compared to when he’s on the sidelines (96.9 points per 100). Those thirteen points marks the difference between having the G League’s 9th best offense to having the worst by nearly five points.
A big factor behind the veteran guard making that big of a positive impact on the Drive’s offense is due to his work from beyond the arc. While he’s always been a solid perimeter threat dating back to his time with LSU in the late 2000’s, Thornton has been shooting a career-best 42% from beyond the arc with the Grand Rapids Drive. That efficiency is largely due to an extremely tight and fluid shooting stroke which allows him to be lightning quick in catch-and-shoot.
In addition to his tremendous shooting stroke, the 31-year-old can still drive to the paint and use his strong 205 frame to finish in traffic. Alongside that, he’s more than willing to be unselfish and work the ball around as he’s averaged 2.3 assists per game since the calendar turned to 2019. That number nearly doubles the 1.4 assists per game that he maintained during his eight years in the NBA.
With all those traits factored together, Thornton definitely stands as one of the best offensive players in the NBA G League. For the Grand Rapids Drive, Thornton’s great play will continue to be huge for the team as they’ll spend the last few weeks of the regular season trying to get a spot in the G League playoffs.
Although Thornton is currently tasked with being the leader of the Drive’s playoff push, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him get called up to the NBA between now and the end of the season. Honestly, it’s a surprise it hasn’t happened yet as Thornton’s past success at the NBA level combined with his efficient play as a member of the Drive makes him into an ideal call-up candidate. That’s especially the case right now as a multitude of teams look to make that playoff push during the month-and-a-half of the NBA season. Thornton should be a great 2nd unit asset for one of those teams as he’s a lights out three-point shooter that can also facilitate and work his butt off on the defensive end.
So while he’s been a fantastic leader for the Grand Rapids Drive, Marcus Thornton should end the 2018-19 season on the roster of an NBA team.