That lineup at the end of the second quarter — Lee 5, Vlad 4, Thornton 3, Ellis and Curry — was +4 in 4 minutes, and will be very special going forward, I can see that. Very glad that Vlad was used exclusively at 4 (+14 in 16 minutes). The Warriors were rewarded with some great Vladdy defense headlined by a couple of blocks.
On the offensive end, take a look at the play at 2:34 2Q. Lee and Vlad spread the floor, Thornton posted in the lane, received an entry pass from Monta and got a contested shot to fall. That is what he does best, and it’s clear that the Warriors picked up a very interesting Nellieball post presence in Thornton. He will be tough to stop in lineups where the Warriors can spread the floor.
Thornton also runs the floor well, as we saw on that great fastbreak he finished on a Curry feed.
And he’s versatile. The Warriors’ end of the game lineup featured Lee at 5, Thornton at FOUR, and DWright at 3. Note that this lineup can switch EVERYTHING, as can the Vlad Rad– Thornton lineup. Thornton picked up Baron Davis (and Monta the four!) on one crunch time play. This is a very under-the-radar reason the Warriors small ball lineups are frequently better defensively than their bigger lineups.
Thornton is also a real presence on the offensive boards, where he is frequently stationed. Quite obviously, this will help slow opposing fastbreaks, which have hurt the Warriors badly this year.
And surprisingly, his biggest weaknesses, defense and passing, have not been apparent so far in a Warriors uniform. Long may that last. But I continue to believe that he can’t guard threes out on the floor, and am curious to see how that registers with Smart first, and then Lacob in the offseason.
But overall, my initial reaction to the acquisition is extremely positive. Thornton will be an extraordinarily useful player for the Warriors when used in Nellieball lineups. And I am beyond pleased that that is how he IS being used so far. But will that continue? Is that Lacob’s real plan? I have my doubts about that, that were not at all eased when I read Smart’s comments about using him at the two.
Thornton is NOT the answer behind Monta and Curry. He cannot defend twos. So that hole remains as unfixed and glaring as ever. Monta had 42 minutes last night, Curry 39.
He is the answer behind DWright, though. And he is going to kill Reggie Williams’ already sparse minutes at the three. Thornton gives the Warriors a bigger, more physical presence in the small ball units. Since Smart is completely uncomfortable pushing the tempo and gunning threes, which is where Reggie excels, it seems obvious that he will prefer Thornton going forward.
Does that mean Reggie will get Acie Law’s minutes backing up Monta and Curry? Not if last night is any indication. Reggie Williams is in Smart’s doghouse. He is the forgotten man this season. Lost in Translation.
Great Joe Lacob Psychoanalysis: After promising to keep the last thread open, I changed my mind after watching Thornton play in the Cavs game. And since that thread contains some great psychoanalysis of Joe Lacob’s actions by posters in the comments section, including the most convincing rebuttal of my own theories I have seen, I am going to plug it again here. Buckaroo’s post (with Moto’s exegesis) in particular is exceptional reading. Check it out.
Have you voted yet? Grade Joe Lacob.