Thornton Named First Team All-Rookie

Here's the text of the Press Release from the Clippers, also available at Clippers.com:

Los Angeles Clippers rookie forward Al Thornton was named to the T-Mobile NBA All-Rookie First Team, the league announced today.  Thornton garnered at total of 48 points in the final voting with 20 First Team points.

The 6’8” high-flyer from Florida State turned in a break-through rookie season, averaging 12.7 points, 4.5 rebounds, 1.2 assists and 27.3 minutes in 79 games played (31 starts).  He also connected on 374-871 FG (.429), 43-130 3FG (.331) and 214-288 FT (.743) on the year.

Thornton finished his first NBA campaign ranked second among rookies in scoring (12.7 ppg), fifth in minutes (27.3 mpg), eighth in rebounds (4.5 rpg), fourth in three-point field goal percentage (.331 3FG) and fourth in double-doubles (7).  Thornton also poured in a 2007-08 NBA Rookie and Clippers’ season high 39 points vs. Memphis on March 29, 2008.  The 39-point outburst also tied the Clipper rookie mark for points scored in a game (Terry Cummings – 3/9/83 and Tom Chambers – 4/15/82).

In addition, Thornton tallied 15.4 points and 6.2 rebounds in his 31 starts while scoring 20+ points on 20 occasions and 30+ points three times on the year.  He led the Clippers in scoring 16 times, rebounding eight times, blocks 12 times and steals 10 times. 

Rounding out the T-Mobile NBA All-Rookie First Team are Atlanta’s Al Horford (58 points), Seattle’s Kevin Durant (57 points), Houston’s Luis Scola (53 points) and Seattle’s Jeff Green (43 points).

The voting panel consisted of the NBA’s 30 head coaches, who were asked to select five players for the first team and five players for the second team, regardless of position. Coaches were not permitted to vote for players on their own team. Two points were awarded for first team votes and one for second team votes. 

Back in late January, when Thornton was left off the 9 man rookie squad for All Star Weekend, I surmised that he would just have to be content with first team All Rookie.  His rookie game snub is explained by a couple of factors.  (1) He started the season slowly (although he'd heated up enough that he should have been there).  (2) More importantly, the rookie game required players in specific positions and this is a forward heavy rookie class - as evidenced by the fact that every member of the All Rookie first team is over 6'8".

It's also worth noting that Thornton finished fourth in the voting overall (he was also fourth in the ROY voting) but that one of the players ahead of him is Luis Scola who was not in the 2007 Draft.  So drafting 14th, the Clippers got the third best rookie according to this vote, finishing behind only the players drafted 2nd and 3rd.  We've said it before but it bears repeating - it's nice to get a 'steal' in the draft for once.

But let's be clear:  a career is a long time.  The more I see of Julian Wright, the more I like him.  Thaddeus Young may end up being the real deal.  Rodney Stuckey can play.  Thornton was ready to contribute this season, and played for a team that needed his contributions.  It doesn't mean that he's better than all those guys drafted ahead of him, even if he was better this season.

Obviously, if you've read the Wages of Wins journal recently, you know that not everyone is sold on Al Thornton.  In fact, one NBA coach did not include him on either the first or second team (which seems a little hard to imagine).  Al was a quantity shooter this season and he needs to become a quality shooter.  He needs to do a better job rebounding the basketball and passing the basketball.  But these are essentially things that can be said of almost all NBA rookies (yes, even the 24 year olds).  Al improved immeasurably from November to April.  I see no reason to think that he won't continue to improve.  He'll also, hopefully, be in the situation of being the team's third option next season as opposed to the second or even first option - forced on him by circumstances this year. 

A well-deserved honor for an exciting rookie.  Al Thornton figures to be a big part of the Clippers' attack for years to come.

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