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NBA Draft 2017: Sindarius Thornwell is a Steal for the Clippers

The Clippers bought the 48th pick in the draft, taking Sindarius Thornwell from the University of South Carolina. The 2017 SEC Player of the Year, Thornwell is a terrific talent who shouldn’t have fallen nearly as far as he did.

South Carolina v Gonzaga Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Height: 6’5’’

Weight: 214 pounds

Wingspan: 6’10’’

Shoots: Right

Position: SG/SF

Age: 22

Senior Year Stats: 21.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 2.8 apg, 2.1 spg, and 2.5 topg in 33.9 minutes per game on 44.5/39.5/83 shooting (4.7 3PA and 8.4 FTA per game).

Awards: SEC Player of the Year in 2017, All-SEC Defense First Team in 2016 and 2017, All -EC Freshman in 2014

Strengths: Thornwell was a two-time All-SEC First Team Defensive Player for a reason. He plays defense with intensity, moves his feet well, and is tough to back down in the post. He has enough size and length to bother larger players, and is capable of switching screens against positions 1-3 and defending capably. That effort also translates to the glass, where he pulled down over 7 rebounds per game, a terrific number for a guard, and one that is promising for his NBA career. Even in the NBA, against much better competition, Thornwell should be a plus defender at multiple positions, and might even be a non-negative in his rookie season (rare for a rookie).

After being a merely ok shooter for his first three seasons in college, Thornwell exploded in his senior year, taking more threes than ever before and hitting them at a much higher rate. While he has a somewhat slow shot release and his mechanics aren’t perfect, his boost in percentage along with pretty good free throw shooting means it’s possible his shooting translates. If chased off the line, Thornwell can make plays off the dribble, and is a solid passer, though he can be turnover-prone at times. Sindarius has the size and strength to bully his way to the rim and draw contact, especially against smaller guards. He even has a bit of a post game, albeit one that probably won’t work nearly as well against NBA-sized competition. Finally, the same hustle and energy that helps him on defense and the boards also propels him down the court on fastbreaks, as he frequently outran his opposition in college.

Weaknesses: Similar to Jawun Evans, the Clippers’ other second round pick, Thornwell doesn’t boast immense upside. He will be 23 by the time the 2017-2018 season starts, and is merely an average athlete. That lack of burst and leaping ability hurts his offensive game, as he doesn’t blow by people on the perimeter, nor can he finish over big men in traffic. Those physical attributes aren’t going to improve, which means he’s almost certainly never going to be a guy who can create his own offense at will against a set defense. His ball-handling skills need work as well, though that’s something that can be improved upon.

While Thornwell is a tough and versatile defensive player, he’s unlikely quick enough to stop the best point guards out on the perimeter (though who is?), and is too small to fully shut down wing scorers such as Kevin Durant or Kawhi Leonard. Therefore, while he should be an above-average defensive player who has some positional versatility, he probably won’t be a perimeter stopper on the level of Leonard or Paul George.

Fit With Clippers: Thornwell is exactly the kind of multi-positional 3 and D wing the Clippers have been looking for for years. Yes, he’s a second round draft pick. And yes, he’s old, and doesn’t have the dreamy upside of a freshman or sophomore. But Thornwell is hard-working, energetic, and smart, all things that should boost his more average traits (size, athleticism) into being workable in the NBA long-term. While his NBA prospects do rely on his shooting being more in line with his senior year than the rest of his college career, there’s no reason to think it was a fluke or can’t be carried over to some extent. The Utah Jazz series showed just how limited the Clippers were defensively, especially on the wing, as they were outmuscled time and again. In an NBA where switching is a more valuable tactic than ever before, Sindarius Thornwell is a steal of a pick in the late 2nd round.