Warriors Targeting Al Thornton for Bench Help

If everything goes according to plan, the Warriors will be signing small forward Al Thornton this week.

Thornton was bought out by the Wizards on Tuesday, officially at about 3 p.m. West Coast time. That means on Thursday at about 6 p.m., he will clear waivers and become a free agent. Nobody is going to claim him off waivers because Thornton — who is in the final year of a contract that pays him $2.8 million — is still owed about $590,000 the rest of the season.

So the Warriors, barring the unforseen, will be getting a 6-foot-8, 235-pound athletic small forward on their bench.

Once he clears waivers, he Warriors will sign him for a prorated amount of the veteran’s minimum, which for Thornton — in his fourth year — comes out to about $200,000. Get this. The whole purpose, on Thornton’s end, of agreeing to the buyout was so he could sign with the Warriors. Certainly, Duffy, Thornton’s agent, probably sold him on the idea. But when was the last time you heard a player wanted off a team so they could sign with the Warriors?

The Warriors wanted Thornton in the 2007 draft. In fact, some thought, if I remember correctly, the Warriors would have Charlotte draft Al Thornton on their behalf with the No. 8 pick since the Warriors would be trading Jason Richardson for that pick. Obviously, the Bobcats drafted Brandan Wright and Thornton wound up going No. 14 to the Clippers. The Warriors took Marco Belinelli at No. 18.

Thornton’s benefit that year was that he was really old for the draft, which translated to ready-to-play-right-away. TheWarriors needed someone who was ready to play. Thornton came out of the locks smoking for a bad Clippers team. Check out his numbers the first two seasons:

07-08: 12.7 points, 42.9 FG%, 4.5 rebounds, 27.3 minutes, 79 games (31 starts)

08-09: 16.8 points, 44.6 FG%, 5.2 rebounds, 37.4 minutes, 71 games (67 starts)

Not bad. To be sure, he’s not great. He’s a scorer at heart. Despite his physical attributes, he doesn’t do much else save for rebound every now and again. That’s why Washington was not going to pick up his $3.9 million option. Thornton wasn’t going to get any time behind Rashard Lewis (acquired earlier this season in the Gilbert Arenas deal), Maurice Evans (acquired just before the deadline in the Kirk Hinrich deal) and the healed Josh Howard.

Thornton appeared in 49 games for the Wizards this season, averaging 8.0 points and 3.2 rebounds in a career-low 21.9 minutes. He hadn’t played more than 19 minutes in either of the last seven games. But the Warriors see some potential in Thornton because of his size, athleticism and scoring ability. And they seriously need the bench help.

Thornton may join the Warriors in Boston if he signs quickly, but he probably won’t play right away. If he actually signs, his debut could come Sunday in Philadelphia or Tuesday in Cleveland.

Marcus Thompson