From South Carolina to South Beach: Why SC’s Sindarius Thornwell Is Perfect for the Miami Heat
Sindarius Thornwell has taken the sports world by storm and made the NCAA tourney his private stage. Due to this his stock is on the rise, but where does he fit best?
By now, the world is familiar with the man they call Sindarius — Sindarius Thornwell to be exact. Thornwell is one of the biggest stars of this year’s edition of March Madness, the reigning SEC Basketball POY, and the emotional and on court leader of not only one of the most feistiest teams the NCAA tournament has ever seen but also probably one of the greatest “Cinderella” stories. Finishing their regular season and not knowing if they would be invited to the big dance, South Carolina would go on to demolish their first round opponent before crushing one of the favorites of the tournament — the Duke Blue Devils. Fast forward to their next game against Baylor, and let’s just say it wasn’t even close. This is all before Thornwell would finally lead the South Carolina Gamecocks Basketball program to frontiers it had never seen before — the Final Four.
Of course if you look at Thornwell’s numbers for those contests, they are about what you would expect from someone who has performed the way he has in the tournament. To a tune of 29 points and 11 boards in the first game against Marquette, he would follow those up with consecutive 24 point, 6 rebound games as if he was meticulously curating his numbers against the likes of Duke and Baylor. Thornwell continued to impress against Florida, putting up 26 points and grabbing 7 boards along the way. Although critics and those who think they know the game a little thought that Thornwell would have a tougher task against Florida, that wasn’t the case and not necessarily the biggest moment Thornwell can expect to occur in his future.
Prior to the tourney, Thornwell was more than likely to make it at the professional level somewhere if not the NBA, and at minimum as an UDFA. This would be based off the strength of his skill set and playing abilities alone, but his performance in the tourney has caused NBA execs to take notice — some even stated Thornwell has “played his way into the draft.” If you have been paying attention you know exactly what they mean, even if the numbers mentioned above don’t smack you in the mouth. This leads to the question though: Where would Thornwell flourish at the next level? For example (and even though it was via trade), you would assume that all the moves made for Kawhi Leonard by the Spurs were because they knew what he was a perfect fit for the Spurs’ culture. Or when thinking about a player such as a Draymond Green the Warriors knew they were drafting a skilled, tough, passionate, defensive-minded guy who fit perfectly into what they thought they had. So, where is this type of combination available for a guy like Thornwell?
Sindarius Thornwell, meet Pat Riley and the Miami Heat. There are a multitude of reasons why Thornwell fits here, but there are a few that make a lot more sense than others. In the following, we will look at three of the specific ways that make Sindarius Thornwell and the Miami Heat a perfect match for each other.
As the popular saying goes, “The best ability, is availability.” Even though it generally applies to a player’s ability or lack thereof to be ready to play on each and every night, it fits in this case too, as the draft is all about identifying talent and skill sets. One of the best “skills” that Thornwell offers is that he will probably be undervalued due to his age, and thus be underdrafted. Again and as mentioned earlier, prior to the tourney Thornwell was probably a borderline second rounder to UDFA even though he could have made it either way. After a few performances like the ones he has put on, it would still shock me to see him go any higher than the late first round.
This means that in order to make a move to get someone like Thornwell won’t take a General Manager sacrificing anything major about his franchise — including cap space, picks, and/or expiring contracts. The situation could play out even smoother (such as the one with current Miami wingman Josh Richardson) where although teams have a first round talent grade on a player, the depth and amount of talented and needed players still on the board simply pushes a first rounder to the second round. This is how the Miami Heat came away with Richardson, only to have Riley say they considered trading back into the late first to take him had they not seen him slipping their way. This is one reason why Thornwell will be a perfect fit. It will be general practice to not that taxing at all on the organization to make the necessary moves to acquire him in the draft.
His Skill Set Fits and Is Needed
When first looking at Thornwell nothing really pops out at you — and then you see him play. For starters Thornwell has a smooth jump shot that he doesn’t mind pulling up over defenders, with range that legitimately stretches out to the three. His handle isn’t “Chris Paul esque” but is rather tight, more than enough for an off ball wing at the next level and good enough to probably run an offense for a couple of series at the time. He is a sneakily athletic guy, and at 6' 5" and about 215 pounds, he isn’t necessarily frail nor little on the floor. This fits right with what Miami is attempting to build around their young guys (Winslow, Richardson, Tyler Johnson) and their young vets ( Dragic, Whiteside, James Johnson).
Heart, Passion, and Love for the Game
There are a few things that separate Miami Basketball from most other organizations around the league, and two of them are South Beach and Pat Riley. The third is the fact that even if they aren’t anywhere near the most talented or deepest teams in the league, they are always going to be the or one of the team’s that simply plays the hardest every night. This is no more evident than in the Heat’s recent massive run of wins. Starting out the season way on the wrong side of the eight ball, Miami stormed back by ringing off ~20 straight victories or so. Even though this was a product of having a full and healthy squad for the first time all season and a new group of guys finally starting to get comfortable with each other on the court, it’s safe to say that the Heat were always in striking position because of how hard they play on a regular basis.
They have been the far less talented team on the court on many occasions this season but because of their tenacity they emerge victorious. This is something that is very apparent in Sindarius Thornwell’s game. He plays like every play is his last. The play by play commentators mentioned something interesting when discussing Thornwell, and that is the story of how he actually got to South Carolina under Frank Martin in the first place. It is said that his late uncle, who told him that Martin was who he needed to be with, is the reason he attended.
eThis is important in itself because it displays what Thornwell’s uncle, “Big Country” Thornwell, meant to him. But it also seemingly helps illustrate why he is so passionate and loving of the game. His passion, heart, reasoning, and motivations for playing the game are also reasons why he is the perfect Miami Heat guy.
Thornwell still has a game and maybe more left in college, but one thing is certain — it won’t be his last. With his skill set, maturity, defensive prowess, and shot making ability, there is GM in particular that should be salivating because Thornwell is his type of guy. This particular GM is the guy with the slicked back hair, Armani suit, and several championship rings on his fingers with his legs and arms crossed. Yeah, that guy. Now go get him Pat. Heat Nation is depending on it.