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Clippers Retrospective: Sindarius Thornwell

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Sin City fit Clipper culture, but in the end he was expendable.

Golden State Warriors v LA Clippers - Game Three Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

Key Facts and Stats

  • Acquired via a second round trade in the 2017 NBA draft.
  • Played a total of 137 games over two seasons with the Clippers.
  • Unremarkable career averages: 2.5 points, 1.3 rebounds, 0.6 assists per game.
  • Last year of rookie deal was not guaranteed. Clippers opted to release on July 6, 2019.
  • Signed a one year deal with the Cleveland Cavaliers on August 3, 2019.

Expectations

Fans were excited when the Los Angeles Clippers acquired Sindarius Thornwell in the 2017 draft, and for good reason. The talented 6’5 shooting guard was successful on both ends of the floor during his four-year stretch with the South Carolina Gamecocks. During his final year with Carolina, Thornwell earned All-SEC First Team honors and was named SEC Player of The Year. He led the Gamecocks to the Final Four of the 2017 NCAA tournament, averaging 21.4 points and 7.0 rebounds per game.

Reality

Thornwell showed promise during his 2017-18 rookie season. He played 73 games for the injury-depleted Clippers, starting in 17. Although his numbers did not jump off the page -- he averaged 3.9 points and 1.9 rebounds in 15.8 minutes per game -- Sindarius did make an impact, particularly through his tenacious defense. Per ESPN.com, Sin City was fourth in defensive real plus-minus (1.30) among all shooting guards in the NBA in 2017-18, and he proved a highly effective asset against established all-stars including James Harden, Paul George and LeBron James.

Offensively, Thornwell was nothing to write home about, but there was that one time he absolutely murdered DeAndre Liggins ... R.I.P.

During the 2018-19 season Sindarius saw a dip in minutes, and consequently, in his overall contributions. He did not do anything wrong to warrant the slash in court time; he was simply a casualty of the Clippers’ deep and healthy roster. Thornwell averaged only one point in 4.9 minutes per game during the season, with most of his time coming in spurts on end-of-quarter defensive possessions or during garbage time. To his benefit, Thornwell understood and embraced his limited role, and always entered games revved up and ready to go.

Unfortunately, the offensive prowess Sindarius showed at Carolina has not yet surfaced in the NBA. He has been ineffective, particularly in half-court sets. Although he runs the court well in transition, he lacks the explosiveness and handles to create his own offensive opportunities and has had trouble finishing at the rim. Outside shooting has not fared much better. From 2017-18 to 2018-19, Thornwell’s field goal percentage dropped from 42.9 to 34.7 and his 3-point shot percentage dropped from 37.7 to 20. This poor output, coupled with frequent lapses in judgment (e.g. passing to Sam Cassell on the bench; allowing Ben Simmons to inbounds pass off his back), made Thornwell somewhat of a liability for the Clippers and one of the least effective offensive players in the league.

Accordingly, it was not a surprise when the Clippers released Sindarius in July. The franchise needed to trim salary after signing reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard and trading for All-Star and MVP Finalist Paul George. Thornwell was the obvious choice; he would have been pushed even further down in the Clippers’ rotation had he stayed.

Legacy

Sin City does not leave much of a legacy with the Clippers, but will always be remembered as an integral member of the memorable 2018-19 squad. With his positive “team-first” attitude, upbeat locker presence, and scrappy style of play, the future should be bright for Thornwell. I think I speak for all of #ClipperNation in wishing him much future success.