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NBA Math: Sindarius Thornwell Was The Best Player In College Basketball Last Season

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We knew he was good... but this good?

2017 NBA Rookie Photo Shoot Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

We knew Sindarius Thornwell was a good college basketball player. He was, by all accounts, one of the best players in NCAA Division I basketball last season, leading the South Carolina Gamecocks to their first-ever Final Four appearance.

What we may not have realized, however, was that Thornwell was not only one of the best collegiate players last season—he was likely the best, and he had one of the better seasons of any collegiate player from this decade. In NBA Math’s player rankings series, where they go team-by-team through the league and run through each roster, I noticed this interesting tidbit in Thornwell’s section:

Total points added is a metric developed by NBAMath.com, and it simply sums a player’s offensive and defensive contributions to his team by combining two factors: offensive points added, and defensive points saved. As you can see, Thornwell outpaces the rest of the NCAA.

Overall, this isn’t a shocking development—after all, Sindarius was in his senior season, and his numbers from years 1-3, while good, would have been more in line with the rest of the pack. It likely doesn’t mean much for his career that he outproduced freshmen like Lonzo Ball and Malik Monk last year; those players are still better NBA prospects.

It’s still pretty damn cool that he was the best player in the NCAA last season. And to take it a step further, NBA Math referred me to their all-time TPA leaderboard for NCAA basketball. Now, as a relatively new site, they only have single-season scores dating back to 2011, but his results here are pretty damn impressive: of almost 33,000 individual collegiate seasons measured, Thornwell’s ranks 7th, behind surefire NBA talents like Anthony Davis and Kemba Walker. He’s also ahead of dozens of established NBA guys—pretty much anyone who’s made it to the NBA since 2011.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t guarantee much in terms of Sindarius’ personal NBA success, as one of the few guys ahead of him, Delon Wright, has struggled to earn playing time in his two seasons so far with the Raptors. Other high-rated seniors, like Shabazz Napier, Jon Diebler, Rick Jackson, and Jeff Withey, have either been unable to stick in the NBA or found themselves in bit roles.

That doesn’t mean there isn’t some hope revealed by these numbers, though: fellow high-rated senior defenders Jae Crowder and Draymond Green have both turned into stellar NBA players after being selected in the second round. Hopefully Thornwell can follow in that path and become a meaningful contributor for the Clippers down the line.