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Where Are They Now: Al Thornton

The "where are they now" series moves forward with high-scoring forward Al Thornton. Unlike any previous player in this series, Al was at one point considered an integral part of the Clippers' future. What has happened to him since?

Harry How/Getty Images

Clippers Career: Al Thornton was the 1st round draft pick of the Clippers all the way back in 2007. Taken at 14, Al was fed a lot of minutes right off the bat, averaging 27.3 minutes a game in his rookie season—and showed a lot of promise. Scoring 12.7 points per game and pulling down 4.5 boards as well, Al made the All-Rookie 1st team and was considered a true cornerstone for the Clippers. The tweener forward improved on his basic stats in his sophomore season, increasing his scoring to an impressive 16.8 points per game. However, a look at his per-36 statistics shows a decline across the board, and his already mediocre shooting fell off a cliff. Still regarded as somewhat of a future piece going forward, the luster was clearly wearing away, and Thornton needed a big year three to really show his value. Sadly, his progress continued to stagnate (he shot more efficiently, but on lower usage, and peripheral stats remained poor), and the Clippers traded him in a three team deal which acquired Drew Gooden. On February 17, 2010, Al Thornton departed for the Wizards; many Clippers fans were upset at the move.

Post-Clippers NBA Career: Al played out the rest of the 2009-2010 season on the Wizards, putting up almost identical stats for them as he had for the Clippers. He remained on the Wiz for the start of the 2010-2011 season, but his minutes dropped, and his numbers fell accordingly. After 49 games, Al and Washington came to an agreement on a buyout, and he became a free agent for the first time in his career. He was claimed by the Warriors after just two days, and signed with them on March 3. Al's minutes plummeted even further on the Warriors, dipping all the way to just 14.3 minutes per game. His rookie contract finished, Al Thornton's NBA career ended not with a bang but a whimper. He was still just 27 years old.

2011-2012: Al didn't sign another basketball contract until February 19 of 2012. Perhaps he was still waiting on a call from an NBA team that never came, or maybe he was just taking time away from the game. Regardless, he joined the Guayama Warriors of the Puerto Rican Basketball League—a very long way from the NBA. He averaged 18.7 points per game for them, one of the league's leaders.... but Al's problem was never scoring.

2012-2013: Al moved on from Puerto Rico to that infamous home of many an ex-NBA volume scorer: China. He signed with the Zhejiang Lions on September 29, 2012, and as most ex-NBA players do, put up ridiculous stats. Al scored 27.4 points per game on 46% shooting from the field and 42.9% from 3— impressive considering how poor his outside shooting had been in the NBA. He even pulled down 9.5 rebounds per game, albeit against much smaller and less athletic competition than in the NBA. Unfortunately, Al sustained an injury mid-season, and was waived for similar-playing gunner Gary Forbes.

2013-2014: After rehabbing from his injury for around a year, Al re-signed with the Guayama Wizards in Puerto Rico. He improved on his stats from his previous stint, scoring 21.7 points and pulling down 7.5 rebounds per game in just 31 minutes. Al still hadn't developed his playmaking skills much, however, averaging just 1.9 assists per game—awful for such a ball dominant player. Sometime towards the end of the season, Al suffered yet another injury, this time in his knee.

2014-2016: Al joined the NLEX Road Warriors of the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) on January 2, 2015, and then re-upped with them for the 2016 season. In this most recent season, he averaged a staggering 36.1 points and 12.5 rebounds per game on 55% shooting from the floor and 42% from three. Among his many great performances was a 69 point outburst, the likes of which the Philippines had probably never seen before. Just several weeks ago, he led the Philippines to a gold medal in the 38th William Jones cup-- an international FIBA-Asia tournament—by throwing up double-double after double-double.

The Future: To my knowledge Al has not yet signed with a team for the 2016-2017 season. His performances in the PBA and the William Jones Cup surely demonstrate that he has good basketball ahead of him, and he should be able to find a home somewhere. Al is 32, and his chances of ever returning to the NBA are very small, but anything is possible. Just a couple years ago he was still getting interest from NBA teams in regards to at least a training camp invite, but preferred guaranteed money and a bigger role overseas. Outside of age, the roadblocks to an NBA comeback are primarily the same they always were-- below average passing and defense. Look for him to sign somewhere in Asia or possibly Europe in the coming months. Good luck to Al, a truly terrific scorer (and apparently teammate) who never quite found a way to add much else to his game.

Check out this video that details a little bit more about his story: