Sunday , Oct , 12 , 2008 Oly Sandor

No longer slept-on: Clippers’ Al Thornton the 2008-09 breakthrough player

Lost in the headlines has been Thornton. His 2007-08 aerial antics overshadowed by bigger names and bigger stories. This will change. And fast. Fans will quickly remember Thornton getting Stuart Scott love on ESPN Sports Centre last spring. They’ll also realize he’s poised to breakthrough in 2008-09 …

No longer slept-on: Clippers' Al Thornton the 2008-09 breakthrough playerYou could understand if Al Thornton felt a little slept-on. The talk in Clipper-land has mostly revolved around signing Baron Davis, losing Elton Brand, and trying to replace Brand with former Denver Nugget Marcus Camby.

Of course, Chris Kaman’s German citizenship and Elgin Baylor’s recent pink slip also generated chatter. Lost in the headlines has been Thornton. His 2007-08 aerial antics overshadowed by bigger names and bigger stories.

This will change. And fast. Fans will quickly remember Thornton getting Stuart Scott love on ESPN Sports Centre last spring. They’ll also realize he’s poised to breakthrough in 2008-09.

The biggest difference will be playing time. Last season, Thornton averaged 13 points and 5 rebounds per game in 27 minutes. He also started 31 times. This summer, Corey Maggette migrated north to Golden State via free agency, which leaves the starting 3-spot for Thornton.

More minutes means more numbers. Consistent playing time also ensures a peace of mind, especially with younger pros. Instead of shuffling back-and-forth between the first-unit and bench, Thornton knows he’ll get heavy burn each night as the starter.

Davis, when healthy and fit, is an elite point guard. And right now, Mr. Jenny Craig looks svelte, so he’ll draw extra defenders and create opportunities for others. Thornton should expect a steady diet of open looks and easy baskets.

The All-Star point guard will also force L.A. to run. ‘Boom Dizzle’ pushing the tempo suits an athletic finisher like Thornton. The former first round pick will convert in the open-court and on-the-break. Chances are, he’ll do it in spectacular fashion, too.

(Davis to Thornton, spectacular indeed.)

The twins will have his back defensively. Thornton has the length and quickness to lock-up his check, but Camby and Kaman’s interior presence will allow him to gamble and play the passing lanes. Getting beat on the perimeter isn’t a big deal with two shot-blocking posts protecting the basket.

Al Thornton is set to explode. The up-and-coming swing will soon give Clipper-heads something very positive to discuss.       

Is Thornton the NBA’s breakthrough player in 2008-09? Get at us with thoughts on him or your pick as the best budding star in the comment box below. Come back to HoopsVibe The Blog for more basketball tidbits. Photo courtesy of bobby241591.