The Seminole senior has shown throughout the season that he is a near automatic shooter from 17 feet and in, whether it be off of the dribble or with his feet set. Although his shooting form is a bit mechanical, he has a virtually unblock able release point on his jumper and can hit his pullup going either left or right. Thornton does an outstanding job utilizing his shot fake as well, which is identical to his actual jumper, forcing defenders to bite on it the large majority of the time. He has shown the ability to consistently knock down the three point shot this year, shooting 44.8% from beyond the arc and nailing 30 three pointers so far on the seasonadmittedly a small sample size.
What makes Thornton even tougher to guard however is his remarkable first step for a 67 player. He is too quick for opposing power forwards to stay in front of and too skilled on the blocks for a small forward to defend. The Florida native has shown the ability to absolutely smoke big men off of the dribble and get to the rim, especially when going to his right. In the low post, he generally goes towards his left shoulder for a turnaround jumper, but does a pretty adequate job of actually feeling his defender out and taking what the defense gives him.
We briefly touched on Thorntons athleticism when mentioning his first step, but there is so much more to his athletic prowess then that. He is an incredibly quick leaper, often getting off the ground twice before his opponent is able to leap once. This also allows him to score over taller, longer opponents such as Brandan Wright
and Josh McRoberts
. His leaping ability is quite freakish, although he relies on his hops a bit more then youd like when it comes to his rebounding. Thornton does not do a remarkable job boxing out, attempting to outleap other power forwards in an effort to coral rebounds. While this has worked to the tune of 7.2 rebounds per game this year, he would be much closer to 10 rebounds per contest if he chose to box out from time to time, and put in slightly more effort on a consistent basis.
It has been a bit hard to gauge his defensive ability due to the fact that Florida State runs quite a bit of zone, and even when they play man to man defense, Thornton is usually guarding a post player. One thing that is awfully evident is his insistence to bite for virtually ever shot fake, leaving his Seminole teammates to play five on four basketball since he takes himself out of the play. While he is a decent shot blocker (1.2 blocks per game), he needs to stay on his feet more if he wants to be a solid defender at the next level.
Generally, Thornton does a solid job with defensive rotations and keeping his man in front of him once the offensive player has put the ball on the floor a few times. One thing that he struggles with though is closing out, as he routinely sprints out at 100 miles per hour out of control when rotating, allowing his man to simply drive right around him and collapse the defense. This is due to Thorntons lack of defensive fundamentals, though, and not his natural ability to move his feet. The potential is certainly there for him to be a solid defender in the NBA, but he will first need to learn the necessary defensive principles in order to fully utilize his athletic gifts, as well as show better awareness on this end of the floor.
On the offensive end, Thornton is a downright atrocious passer. He is averaging less then 1 assist per game on the year, and is sporting a .33/1 assist to turnover ratio. He just doesnt really seem to have a good feel for finding the open man, and often dribbles with his head down. His ball-handling ability has also been a question mark, considering that some view him as a full time small forward prospect. While he will never be a guy who breaks players down with a remarkable crossover or inside out dribble, he is completely adequate as a quick two to three dribble threat, and has no problem creating space for himself off of the dribble when need be.
Many have questioned what position Thornton will play at the next level, but it has been made evident this season that he is capable of playing both forward positions in spurts in the NBA. The Shawn Marion
comparisons are inevitable, with remarkably similar athleticism, first steps, and quick leaping ability to go along with lack of a true position on the floor. He would be best fitted in an up and down style of play, where he would be able to utilize his athletic abilities and length to the fullest capabilities.
In the past year, there might not be another player whose stock has gone up as much as Thorntons has. He went from intriguing prospect last year to a possible first team All-American this year. Had he entered the draft last year, he would have likely seen himself picked somewhere in the second round. With the 2007 Drafts lack of depth outside of the top ten players, Thornton has a good a shot to land in the late lottery and looks very solid right now as a top 20 pick.