Marcus Thornton Will Resurrect His Career with Phoenix Suns

Adam Wells@adamwells1985Featured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2015

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 5:  Marcus Thornton #4 of the Boston Celtics handles the ball against the Toronto Raptors on November 5, 2014 at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2014 NBAE (Photo by Brian Babineau /NBAE via Getty Images)
Brian Babineau/Getty Images

Marcus Thornton's career has been trending downward for a long time, but the veteran guard has been given a new lease on life thanks to the trade deadline. 

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, Thornton was sent to Phoenix in exchange for Isaiah Thomas and a draft pick.

Whispers of Thornton being traded percolated January 14 when Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports reported the Celtics were getting a lot of traffic on the 27-year-old:

While the main focus of this trade will be on Thomas going to Boston, the Suns are in an interesting spot with Thornton right now. He's in the final year of his contract, so there's no long-term obligation. This means the former LSU star is auditioning for his new employer and potential suitors in the offseason.

It's hardly a secret that Thornton's career has taken a turn for the worse in recent years. Here are his scoring and shooting numbers since the 2011-12 season:

Marcus Thornton Stats Since 2011-12
SeasonPPGFG%3-pt FG %
2011-1218.743.834.5
2012-1312.742.937.2
2013-149.839.434.5
2014-158.941.641.9
via ESPN.com

Thornton did carve out a niche for himself with Boston this year. He's only playing 16.4 minutes per game but is shooting well from three-point range. Despite the comfort level that may have been building with the Celtics, he's going to a situation that will make better use of his talents. 

Jeff Hornacek has gotten more out of the talent in Phoenix than anyone expected when he took over as head coach in 2013. The Suns didn't have a winning season in three years before he arrived, winning a total of 58 games from 2011-13. 

Matt York/Associated Press

As soon as Hornacek arrived, the Suns became a borderline playoff team in the Western Conference. They won 48 games last year and are 29-25 so far this season. 

One reason for that success is teaching, which is something Hornacek talked about at his introductory press conference, via Craig Grialou of Arizona Sports:

I think that there are so many pro guys now that are one-and-done or didn't get the teaching in college and they come to the NBA level and they don't know a lot of this stuff. That's the one thing I've learned over the last couple of years of being on the bench is you can't assume these guys know some of the stuff maybe we learned back in college because they haven't had that experience.

Thornton isn't exactly a young guy at 27 and having been in the NBA for six years, but he also hasn't had a proper mentor. He's never played for one team longer than two full years, not including the partial third season he spent in Sacramento before being dealt to Brooklyn last year. 

A perfect example is Goran Dragic, who was also traded on Thursday to Miami, per Wojnarowski. 

After being a solid contributor for a couple of years, Dragic became a player who was worth 10.3 win shares last year, per Basketball-Reference. That was nearly double his previous career high of 5.7 set in 2012-13. 

This isn't to say that Thornton will suddenly go from being worth two win shares to six or seven by the end of the year, but there are few situations in the NBA that provide him with a coach who knows how to maximize the things a player does well. 

Thornton has a short time to make a valuable impression on the Suns, who may not even want him beyond this year and were more interested in the draft pick. But he's got shooting skills to provide a boost to this offense, as well as showing other teams that he's more than just a one-dimensional three-point shooter. 

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