You're going to hear a lot of names get bounced around as players the Wizards could be looking at with their picks. Scouting reports and highlight reels can help you get a feel for some of the players, but nothing can replace the knowledge and insight that you get from watching a player on a night-in, night-out basis.
In order to get that kind of feel, you really need to talk to someone that's a true fan of the team. And if you want a more informed feeling for who you're looking at, it always helps if you can find a couple of bloggers who follow the university's athletic program. With that in mind, we're enlisting the help of some of the college hoops bloggers out there to get a better feel for some of the players the Wizards might end up drafting, especially the ones that can be found later in the draft who might not be getting the publicity of a James Harden or a Tyreke Evans.
For our second segment, we're turning to And the Valley Shook for a look at LSU guard Marcus Thornton.
In what areas do you think Thornton will be able to contribute right away on a NBA team?
As a preface, let me warn you ahead of time. The last time I watched an NBA game from start to finish was probably about 15 years ago. I don't know anything about the NBA. I don't pay any attention to it. I don't know any of the players except the big media stars like Lebron James and Kobe Bryant and some of the LSU alumni in the league. I don't know what it takes to be successful in the NBA. I don't know how the game is played on that level. I don't know how to gauge a player's worth in the NBA. I can tell you about Marcus Thornton, though. The strengths of his game are a) outside shooting and b) strength around the basket. He is not just a open-look shooter either. He can shoot with a player right on top of him, even a somewhat taller player. His shooting form is such that he seems to naturally fall away from the basket when he shoots, and he shoots high, so he can get his shot off without getting it blocked. He can also score in traffic on the inside. The man is an offensive machine.
At 6-4, 205 lbs. Thornton is a little smaller than most of the shooting guards that he'll defend in the NBA. Based on what you saw of his defensive skills at LSU, do you think he'll be able to overcome that in the pros?
Marcus Thornton got a reputation for being one-dimensional, and he will probably never be a defensive stopper, but in his senior year he was a surprisingly good defensive player. Not outstanding, but definitely not a liability. Perhaps he was even, dare I say it, better than average. He is listed at 6'4", but honestly I always thought he was shorter. He plays shorter, and I imagine he will have problems challenging shots at the next level.
If a team tried to make him move to point guard in the NBA, would that have a chance of succeeding or is he locked into being a shooting guard at this point in his career?
I would be very surprised if Thornton can be a point guard. He was an occasional fill-in at point guard for LSU, and he did admirably well with it. Giving him the ball suits his style of creating his own shot rather than being a catch-and-shoot guy, but I would be very skeptical about making him a true point guard. It would be a square peg in a round hole. He's a solid ball-handler, but Thornton has simply never been a distributor. It's not his game.
Thornton's numbers improved across the board in his senior season. Was this a byproduct of bringing in Trent Johnson as coach, or just natural progression and development?
That's a good question, and I think the answer is that Trent Johnson made Thornton into the player he was as a senior. When Trent Johnson was hired and had been on the job for a few months, he announced to the press who he expected to be his key players for the year, and left Thornton off that list. When asked about Thornton, Johnson said that he wasn't sure Thornton would start because he hadn't proven himself on defense. It was a master stroke of motivation. Thornton ended up improving his defensive game enough that I would say he was our best overall player last year, and not just our best scorer. We had better defensive players, notably Garrett Temple, and we had a couple of better ball handlers, and better inside players, but we didn't have anyone other than Thornton who was good at everything and great at something (scoring) than Thornton was. He even stopped taking bad shots, which was his bugaboo as a junior, when he was a one-dimensional scorer who often hurt the team by taking bad shots. Trent Johnson made him a more complete player and a smarter player.
If there's one player that you could compare him to either on the collegiate level or the pro level, who would it be and why?
Do you remember "The Microwave" from the Detroit Pistons of the "Bad Boys" era? His real name was Vinnie Johnson, but he would come off the bench for the Pistons and provide instant offense both from shooting and penetrating.. I think that's who Marcus Thornton can be.
Many thanks to And the Valley Shook for their insights on Marcus Thornton. If you're looking for some more coverage of the college that raised up players like Pete Maravich, Shaquille O'Neal, Glen Davis, and Tyrus Thomas, check them out.