Marcus Thornton Trade Is No-Brainer Deal for Brooklyn Nets

Stephen Babb@@StephenBabbFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2014

Jan 24, 2014; Sacramento, CA, USA; Sacramento Kings guard Marcus Thornton (23) drives the lane in front of Indiana Pacers defenders in the first half of their NBA basketball game at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports
Lance Iversen-USA TODAY Sports

The Sochi Winter Olympics cost about $50 billion, proving once and for all the Russians will spare no expense in pursuit of a classy product. Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov is no exception. According to Yahoo! Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski, the organization is pursuing at least two additions to its already bloated payroll:

The Sacramento Kings are engaged in discussions to send guard Marcus Thornton to the Brooklyn Nets for guard Jason Terry and forward Reggie Evans, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Talks on the deal have gathered momentum in recent days, sources told Yahoo Sports, and are expected to continue until Thursday's trade deadline. 

The Nets' possible deal with Sacramento doesn't preclude them from also completing a deal for the Los Angeles LakersJordan Hill using the Nets' Disabled Player Exception, sources told Yahoo Sports.

Adding Hill for a little frontcourt depth couldn't hurt, but it's the prospect of upgrading the sixth-man spot that should really turn heads—at least if you can still consider Jason Terry a sixth man. The 36-year-old guard is undergoing something of a career implosion. 

Averaging just 16.3 minutes and 4.5 points per game, Terry's become an afterthought among the Nets' big names. Even with Evans thrown in the deal, it's hard to understand the Kings' thinking—and yet, by all accounts this deal is on the brink of happening.

Sacramento's rationale probably involves the value of a veteran who can help bring along young guards like Isaiah Thomas and Ben McLemore. Brooklyn's logic is easier to discern: This deal would make the Nets significantly better overnight.

Despite having an off season, Marcus Thornton is a quintessential spark plug and 10 years Terry's junior. He's pricier than Terry and Evans combined, but with just one more season left on his contract, there's little risk of his cool shooting turning into a long-term nightmare. 

The upside to the deal is more than a little intriguing, especially for a team that's still plenty capable of cracking the Eastern Conference's top four seeds.

At the moment, Thornton is cashing in on just 38 percent of his field-goal attempts, well below his 43-percent career mark. He made over 37 percent of his three-pointers last season—now he's making under 32 percent of them. The last time Thornton's number sank to these levels (2010-11), he was traded from New Orleans to Sacramento.

The big takeaway is that this season has been uncharacteristic. Typically Thornton is a high-volume shooter who can absolutely light it up on any given night, and the Nets haven't forgotten that.

In Thornton, they see a close approximation to the Jason Terry of old—a born-and-bred shooter.

While Shaun Livingston and Marquis Teague should be sufficient relievers for Deron Williams, Brooklyn also sees the need for another guard off the bench, preferably one who's capable of scoring in chunks. And while Thornton is slightly undersized at shooting guard, he'd instantly become Joe Johnson's primary backup.

In conjunction with Andray Blatche and Andrei Kirilenko, Thornton would give Brooklyn one of the league's strongest eight-man rotations. He'd also give that rotation the backcourt quickness it's sorely missing.

Admittedly Thornton doesn't contribute much on the defensive end, but then again, neither does Terry. This deal isn't about adding a well-rounded All-Star; it's about adding a specialist in his prime.

The real challenge will be finding shots and minutes for Thornton. It's hard to see him accepting the limited role Terry's occupied thus far this season.

Just two years removed from a 2011-12 campaign in which he played nearly 35 minutes a game, Thornton's probably in no mood to take a step backward. Indeed, his increasingly marginal role in Sacramento just might have something to do with his declining efficiency.

When given the opportunity, Thornton's proven he can put up around 20 points a game. In his first 27 games with the Kings (during the 2010-11 season), he averaged 21.3 points per contest. But he was also averaging over 38 minutes in those contests. 

If Brooklyn can only offer the 16 minutes they've been giving Terry, you have to wonder how Thornton will respond to what might feel like yet another demotion.

His odds of success in Brooklyn would be more encouraging were he capable of running the point on any consistent basis. That kind of versatility might be enough to warrant 25 to 30 minutes a night. Unfortunately, Thornton has never proven himself as a floor general. He's averaged just 1.5 assists for his career, numbers he could put up by accident.

The good news is that Thornton should find himself playing plenty of minutes alongside the likes of Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson, both capable passers who might obviate the need to have a true point on the floor at all times. Thornton might get away with playing both guard positions so long as there are enough distributors on the floor.

If the deal goes through, that becomes Jason Kidd's challenge: finding minutes for Thornton and putting him in a position to succeed.

The even better news, though, is that this deal doesn't have to work out perfectly. The worst-case scenarios for Brooklyn aren't that bad. Even if Thornton continues to slump, he's an upgrade over Terry. And if he emerges from said slump in time for the postseason, Kidd will have no choice but to give him ample minutes.

Brooklyn's roster feels like its overpriced in all the wrong ways, but that doesn't mean throwing a little more money around won't yield dividends. Some risks were meant to be taken.