In a major coup, the Sydney Kings have secured the services of NBA second round draft pick, Marcus Thornton, for the upcoming NBL season.
This Marcus Thornton, a 6-foot-4 shooting guard out of William & Mary, was selected 45th overall this year by the Boston Celtics after a stellar four-year collegiate career.
Thornton put up big numbers at W&M, graduating as the mid-major school’s all-time career leader in points, three-pointers, three-pointers made per game and games played. He averaged 20 points per game as a senior at excellent shooting clips from the field (.456), from three (.402) and from the line (.830).
“It’s a great acquisition for this club,” Kings coach Damian Cotter said.
“Marcus’ versatility, athleticism and skillset are going to cause matchup problems for opponents, and he’ll be coming in to a situation where he will have the opportunity to lead a very talented team.”
“There has been a great deal of research done on Marcus and after watching him in the Summer League and during his time in college, he is a perfect fit – both in character and as a player.”
The dynamic guard was one of the fastest prospects at this year’s NBA Draft Combine, and has an impressive ability to pull up off the dribble and punish teams with his knock-down shooting.
Thornton took a few games to find his feet during this year’s Summer League action but grew more comfortable and was the talk of Sin City for a day after this dominant 21-point performance against Miami.
The Celtics, who selected four players in this year’s draft, openly stated that one or more of their picks would likely wind up stashed overseas or playing in the D-League over the next 12 months.
“We don’t have room on the roster for all four guys, most likely,” President of Basketball Operations Danny Ainge said. “So we’ll work out deals for guys to play overseas in some of the situations.”
“Obviously we have lots of guards but we’ll figure it out,” he added. “We may have to make some tough choices but we really like all the guys.”
Thornton was Boston’s final pick so the expectation was pretty clear from the outset that he was a possible candidate for heading overseas.
“Nevertheless,” Ainge said at the time, “we think that (Thornton) has a bright future as a Boston Celtic.”
Enter the Kings – Coach Cotter and Head of Basketball Operations Tim Hudson specifically – who have struck again after recently re-signing high-profile import Josh Childress.
“Aside from his exceptional skillset, Marcus has a tremendous temperament, flair and excitability that will see him fit perfectly in Sydney,” Hudson said via Sydney’s official release.
Tremendous flair? Don’t you mean tremendous hair? Between Thornton’s dreads and Childress’ afro, the Kings may be trotting out the NBL’s all-time best hair combo this season.
“He has a great history of success built on the reputation of being an extremely hard worker and has led the William & Mary basketball program to unprecedented levels of success,” Hudson added.
“Above all, he fits perfectly within our analytical framework and we are lucky to have a quality person like Marcus joining us at the Sydney Kings.”
Thornton was asked following the draft how he would feel if the Celtics decided to stash him overseas for his first year as a pro.
“It’s a long process,” he said. “It’s a blessing to be in this position, to be drafted, and to be a part of this great franchise so I’m just taking it all one day at a time and doing everything to the best of my abilities.”
Thorton’s signing with the Kings comes just days after Scottie Wilbekin became the second player in as many years to sign an NBA deal after playing his rookie professional season in the NBL. James Ennis, of course, was a member of the Miami Heat’s rotation for most of last season after leading the Perth Wildcats to the NBL title in 2014.
It’s yet another vote of confidence in the quality of the Australian league (and its franchises) from key decision makers in the best league in the world
Thornton’s biggest barrier to becoming an NBA player is likely his frame, as he’s not a natural point guard but is slightly undersized in terms of defending NBA shooting guards. He is similar in that way to the other Marcus Thornton who, despite his exceptional offensive skills, has struggled to maintain a consistent role (or home) in the Association.
But that won’t be an issue in the NBL.
Nope, Thornton will be bringing his elite talent to the bright lights of the Harbour City to form a deadly import combination with Mr Childress.
Time will tell, of course, how well he accepts the disappointment of not playing in the NBA directly after going pro. Some, like Ennis and Wilbekin, take that well and work extra hard on meshing with their teammates and developing their games. Others, like Jordan McRae, don’t.
Thornton has certainly had a while to get used to the idea, which helps.
He’s also got Childress to serve as a mentor. Who better to guide a young prospect through the process of playing overseas and becoming an NBA player than someone who has experience with both? Childress is also an excellent leader, someone who will take Thornton under his wing and assist him to gel with his new teammates.
Bravo, Sydney Kings. Bravo.
An already fluorescent #NBL16 season just got a whole lot brighter.