Sindarius Thornwell wasn’t the fastest player at the NBA Draft Combine. His vertical jump was never his strong suit.
There’s a lot to like about one of South Carolina’s greatest players of all time and what he can do on a basketball court, and that’s the central message Thornwell is sending teams ahead of the June 22 draft.
“I’m not a lottery pick, but I feel like I’m a lottery player,” Thornwell said in describing his pitch to NBA teams. “I’m a glue guy. I can come in right away and produce on both ends of the court, but most importantly, the defensive end.”
USC was No. 32 in the country and No. 2 in the SEC in scoring defense (65.2 points per game allowed) this past season. The Gamecocks were sixth nationally in turnover margin and ninth in 3-point field goal defense.
That defense-first approach under coach Frank Martin, and Thornwell’s role in it, will be a boon to him in the pros, he believes.
“Teams are always looking for guys to come in and play defense and guard, and I feel like I’m that type of guy,” said Thornwell, who considers himself one of the better defenders in the draft. “That’s one thing I enjoy doing and I think I’m pretty good at it. That’s what I’m selling myself on, to be able to give their stars a break on defense so that way they can compete better on offense.”
CBS Sports projects the Lancaster native as the second-best shooting guard in this year’s draft class. Thornwell concluded his USC career third in program history in scoring with 1,941 points. The SEC Player of the Year this past season, he averaged 21.4 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
That scoring average was 23.6 points during the Gamecocks’ NCAA Tournament run, where Thornwell became a fan favorite nationally and was named by ESPN as the best player in the Final Four.
“That tournament run helped me tremendously from going from, ‘Maybe he might be an NBA player’ to some people saying, ‘He’s definitely going to get picked, it’s just a matter of where and what team.’
“It’s a difference when you have 25 against South Carolina State and you have 25 and you win against Duke. It’s a big difference. I think it benefited me a lot.”
ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla compared Thornwell to former Virginia guard Malcolm Brogdon, who averaged 26.4 minutes a game this year with the Milwaukee Bucks. Fraschilla said there’s a lot to like with the former Gamecock at wing position.
“People are going to love Sindarius’ toughness and his versatility, and so that’s what he’s got going for him,” Fraschilla said. “He’ll just have to prove he can guard a little bit quicker type of NBA athlete in the backcourt or at the wing spot.”
Thornwell met with at least 14 teams this past week, including San Antonio, Orlando, Miami, Brooklyn, Denver, Golden State, Milwaukee, Detroit, Portland, Atlanta and Dallas. He knew of at least one private workout scheduled with the Trail Blazers.
Teams quizzed him on basketball, his family and his senior season suspension. The latter wasn’t a sticking point with any team, Thornwell said.
He was one of 67 players invited to NBA Draft Combine. Thirty-eight actually played in the five-on-five games. His reason for full participation was simple: He wanted a chance to raise his stock with so many NBA coaches and general managers looking on.
“My agent said he thought it was best for me to play to show them the different type of stuff I bring to the game,” he said. “A lot of people don’t play in the games because they’re scared their stock will drop or they’re trying to hide their weaknesses. I don’t care for all that. I just like playing the game.
“It’s great for guys that aren’t really on the board,” he said.
Mock drafts, outside of the projected lottery picks, are all over the map with which players get drafted and where. Some like Thornwell as a first-rounder. Others don’t.
Thornwell attended plenty of Charlotte Hornets games growing up but was never a fan of any one team, he said. That will change a little more than a month from now.
“I like everybody, and whoever drafts me, that will be my favorite team,” he joked. “I don’t really have a preference.”
Projecting Sindarius Thornwell
The NBA Draft is June 22.
▪ CBS Sports ranks him the No. 27 overall prospect and the second-best shooting guard in the draft, but doesn’t consider him a first-round selection.
▪ Bleacher Report projects Thornwell as a first-round draft pick, the No. 27 selection, by the Brooklyn Nets.
▪ NBADraft.net predicts him No. 38 overall, a second-rounder, to the Chicago Bulls.
▪ DraftExpress has Thornwell as a second-round pick, No. 55 overall, by the Utah Jazz.
They said it
“He has NBA size for a shooting guard but hasn’t gotten out of the second round yet in the big mocks,” NetsDaily.com wrote. “He can shoot and plays well in the open court, but as Draft Express notes, he has only ‘average quickness.’ Still, he has a high motor and plays well in big games.”