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Analyzing The Anomalous: Jason Thompson vs. Oklahoma City

Last night was the fifth game in a row (seventh time total) this season that the Kings began a contest with Tyreke Evans, Marcus Thornton, John Salmons, DeMarcus Cousins, and Jason Thompson on the court. Their overall record so far with this starting lineup is 6-1. Deducing from the fact that the first four guys mentioned are regular starters, Jason Thompson—an overlooked (going by Synergy’s defensive PPP numbers, Thompson is one of the 50 best defenders in basketball), 6’11″ workaholic—would appear to be the team’s greatest variable; the x-factor who quietly grabs big rebounds, take shots when they’re warranted, and has found a way to fit in on the league’s most overlapped roster.

Here’s how he contributed in last night’s game against the Thunder—his team’s biggest win of the season.

Jason Thompson vs. Oklahoma City. Sacramento wins 106-101. Thompson’s numbers: 30 minutes, 11 points (on 4-8 shooting), 10 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 turnover.

  • This season Thompson is averaging about 22 minutes of action a game, but when he logs at least 30 minutes (a number Keith Smart would be wise to give him when the other option is J.J. Hickson) his averages jump to at least 10 points and 10 rebounds on 51.5% shooting.
  • Three of his first four shots of the game came at the rim, but were in different variations of speed and serenity. The first was in the post, and was preceded by a jumbled, chaotic sequence that had Thompson receiving an entry pass from Chuck Hayes. (Keith Smart would be diplomatic to describe what happened as “a series of screens”.) Thompson eventually found himself one on one against Nick Collison with 12 seconds left on the shot clock, but instead of taking his time and executing an actual move, he rushes with a quick jump hook; his footwork was hurried and the ball’s flight reacted accordingly.
  • Thompson’s first two points came as a result of an awkward pick and roll with Marcus Thornton, who chose to go away from the screen and towards the baseline. Thompson instinctually reacted by drifting into the lane, where he fumbled a slippery drop off pass, and instead of gathering himself and going up strong, once again he looked to be forcing the play’s natural envelope. This time he was rewarded by a friendly rim.
  • Trailing by five with a little over seven minutes left in the third quarter, a beautiful two-way play was executed at the expense of the sport’s most potent offensive threat. Stepping up to assist John Salmons in the pick and roll, Thompson took advantage of some sloppy ball-handling by Kevin Durant, and the result was a quick steal with three Kings out and running in the opposite direction. Salmons eventually rewarded his big man by feeding him for the easy flush. This progression was followed by a tip-in dunk about a minute later, and the game’s first meaningful momentum swing in Sacramento’s favor.
  • His last basket scored was both pretty and resilient. The Kings began with Thompson running a pick for Jimmer, who took the ball into the lane before kicking it out to an open Evans in the corner. By design, again, Thompson sets a screen, allowing the Kings best player enough room to wreak havoc in the paint. While driving middle and attracting the attention of two Thunder defenders, Thompson slides towards the basket, unguarded and left alone. He’s ultimately fed underneath for the game-tying dunk.
  • Whenever a 6’11″ player has three assists in a game it’s an added luxury to a basketball team. When all of those assists account for baskets at the rim it’s a blessing. Thompson did just that last night, and even though it counts for just two points, the affect it has on the game is huge. One was on a beautiful bounce pass to a cutting Tyreke Evans from the post. The other was an entry pass with deft touch to DeMarcus Cousins—who was fronted by his defender—that allowed an elementary two-handed dunk. Seriously, on passes like the one to Cousins, the statistician should split the two points awarded on the play between the assist man and the scorer.
  • It was weird that at the borderline nervous pace Thompson played at on his only nationally televised game of the season, he only had one turnover in 30 minutes. And that came on a charge.
  • On defense he was mindful of both Westbrook and Durant, knowing he could come face to face with either of them at any possible moment. (In at least two instances he left his man completely and sort of half-committed to doubling Durant. It was weird but seemed to work, as the ball was then harmlessly passed around the perimeter.)
  • Oh yea, almost forgot: Mr. Thompson also had 10 rebounds. That’d be good for more than anyone else on either team
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