On June 27, the persons at Liberty Ballers and Sixers fans everywhere boarded Sam Hinkie’s bandwagon and swore to never get off. The new Philadelphia general manager had just pulled off the unthinkable, swapping Jrue Holiday for Nerlens Noel and a 2014 first round pick, drafting Holiday’s replacement in Michael Carter-Williams at No. 11 and snagging blue-collar all-star Arsalan Kazemi with the 54th pick in the Draft.
Carter-Williams has been a star. Nobody would mistake you for a homer for calling MCW the NBA’s Rookie of the Year thus far. But, with Noel on the shelf until some point in 2014 and Kazemi hooping in Iran, there’s an additional Sixers rookie that has been playing well—yet another young scrapper that Brett Brown has morphed from an ugly duckling into a contributing role player.
In the end of September the Sixers brought former Georgetown Hoya Hollis Thompson to training camp, hoping he could bring the team a nice reward following a very, very low risk invitation. Thompson shot 44.0 percent from three-point land over his three seasons under John Thompson III before playing the 2012-13 season with Daniel Orton on the Tulsa 66ers.
Being 6-8 and 206 pounds and showing flashes of great athleticism and defensive ability, Thompson beat out Khalif Wyatt and Vander Blue for the final guard spot on Brown’s roster, and he has excelled as his role has grown in recent weeks.
Over his last five games, Thompson has averaged 7.8 points and 3.4 rebounds in 20.6 minutes per game, following his 7-point, 2-rebound, 2-assist performance against Orlando on Wednesday. For the season, he’s averaging 11.1 points, 6.1 rebounds and 1.4 assists per 36 minutes and shooting 46.9 percent from the field.
Granted, it is a pretty small sample size. Thompson has only played 201 minutes in the 14 games he has appeared in this season. And that mildly impressive 46.9 percent shooting comes on just 49 field goal attempts with only 5-17 shooting, or 29.4 percent, from deep. Remember, Thompson drained nearly half of his three-point bombs in college.
But knowing Thompson went undrafted out of college and was cut by the Thunder during the 2012 training camp, what Brown has been able to get out of the lengthy wing has been impressive. Don’t look now, but Thompson is ninth among rookies in PER at 11.49—higher than the likes of Ben McLemore, The Greek Freak, Kelly Olynyk and Cody Zeller. Of course, MCW is the most efficient rook in this year’s class.
Thompson is still just 22 years old and hasn’t even brought his elite skill in shooting to the League, yet. So while Orton, Tony Wroten and James Anderson have hogged the headlines of Brett Brown player development projects, Thompson has also benefitted and performed under the Sixers’ new coach.
In fairness, he likely won’t ever amount to more than an eighth or ninth man on a contending team, but Thompson has done a nice job thus far in the Wells Fargo Center. He's just another member of the Hinkie All-Stars.