A four year collegiate career ended on a high note for Sindarius Thornwell, as he was named SEC Player of the Year before leading the Gamecocks to their first Final Four appearance in school history. He will leave South Carolina ranking in the top ten in school history in total points (third), total rebounds (tenth) and assists (ninth), surely cementing himself a place in the rafters in Columbia when the time comes.
The soon to turn 23 year old looked like a man among boys at times in the NCAA and possesses the physical makeup to step onto a NBA court tomorrow. Measured a hair under 6'5 with an impressive 6'10 wingspan and strong 212 pound frame, Thornwell has the versatility needed to defend multiple positions, a critical skill that NBA teams desire. Although he lacks a high level of athleticism, he has a chance to carve out a NBA role thanks to his combination of physicality, length and two-way skill set.
With the way the NBA has been trending, players like Thornwell are becoming increasingly valuable thanks to their defensive versatility. He was often tasked with the most difficult defensive assignments for an incredibly effective South Carolina defense, guarding Nigel Williams-Goss, Luke Kennard, and Johnathan Motley among others in the NCAA Tournament to show off his defensive versatility.
Thornwell is a tough, hard-nosed defender who isn't going to back down from a challenge and will throw his body around to help his team get a stop. He uses his physical tools to cause havoc by creating 2.5 steals per 40 minutes and blocking 1.1 shots per 40 minutes, one of only five players 6'5 and under in the NCAA last season to post similar numbers. He also has a desire to crash the glass, pulling in 5.4 defensive rebounds per 40 minutes, comparable with some big men in this draft.
He is comfortable guarding both the perimeter and the paint, and has developed a high intensity level under Frank Martin. With his ability to guard multiple positions and switch every screen, Thornwell's defensive versatility will allow NBA teams to fit him into a variety of different lineups and is the building block for his NBA potential.
On the offensive end, Thornwell shot a career best 39% from beyond the arc as a senior, an impressive improvement when compared with his 34% career shooting percentage. He will need to be a catch and shoot threat to space the floor in the NBA and will have to prove he can get his shot off cleanly against NBA defenders. He release time isn't that quick, and he doesn't get a ton of lift on his jumper, which could cause some issues against closeouts from NBA defenders. There are still some mechanical issues regarding his jump shot and he will need to show that he can be a good shooter at game speed when shooting from NBA range, something he struggled with at the NBA Combine.
When run off the three point line, Thornwell has some strides to make to become more creative of an attacker off the dribble. His handle is undeveloped and he can struggle to create offense inside the arc. He is willing to attack closeouts off the dribble going to his right or left, taking one or two dribbles before he pulls up at the elbow for a jumper, but he converted just 25% of his 32 off the dribble jumpers according to Synergy Sports Technology.
He isn't overly quick operating downhill to get to the rim before the help defense converges, and doesn't always have the ball-handling skills necessary to break down the defense in traffic, which has limited his ability to create offense for his team in the halfcourt. On the plus side, he is calm and collected while driving and although he isn't an elite passer, he had a positive assist to turnover ratio of 1.13, which demonstrates a solid feel for the game which could lead to some improvement as a creator down the line as he gains more experience in that role.
It is unlikely Thornwell will ever become a high-volume, go-to offensive creator, but he has found other ways to score to complement his catch and shoot ability. He has a high motor in transition to fill lanes and beat the defense down the floor for easy buckets. In the half-court, he can use his strength to back down smaller defenders in the post, where he has displayed impressive footwork for a wing and he will fight for offensive rebounds, as he tracked down 2.9 per 40 minutes.
Thornwell will need to find ways to be more efficient in the paint as he has struggled to finish below the rim, converting just 53% of his attempts according to Synergy Sports Technology. He isn't able to explode quickly off the ground and he has had trouble finishing in traffic against length. That said, he is willing to use his body to initiate contact to create space or get to the free throw line, where he made 83% on 9.7 attempts per 40 minutes, the third highest number of attempts among all players in our top 100. Just as he does defensively, he is willing to do the little things needed to make winning plays for his team.
Thornwell's defensive versatility, spot up shooting ability and his on-court intangibles makes him an intriguing potential two-way prospect. Although his upside might be limited due to his age and relatively average athleticism, in the right situation he could become a key member of a rotation. He can fill coveted roles and has shown he is willing to accept them to help his team win, which should make him an attractive pick somewhere in the second round.