The Charlotte Hornets were able to acquire the 37th overall pick in the 2021 NBA Draft from the Detroit Pistons in exchange for taking Mason Plumlee off their hands. Mitch Kupchak and company used that pick to select JT Thor out of Auburn. The 6’10” forward was considered by many as a fringe first round pick, so getting him with the 37th pick seemed like tremendous value. Thor proved that to be the case and flashed some intriguing upside in limited minutes as a rookie.
Thor was a young rookie, turning 19 less than two months before the start of the season. He appeared in 33 games and tallied 262 minutes. His offensive stats were nothing spectacular—he averaged 9.2 points per 36 minutes, but that’s not where his intrigue lies. He averaged 1.1 steals and 1.5 blocks per 36, He showed the ability to protect the rim while also possessing the quickness and awareness to guard on the perimeter. There’s obviously very little to go off from his rookie tape, but he shows a ton of potential to thrive in a switch heavy scheme where he can both protect the rim and contain quicker ball handlers with his length and agility.
His two blocks against the Sacramento Kings in December illustrate that versatility. On the first, he moves his feet and stays in front of Buddy Hield trying to attack the switch. On the second, he quickly rotates over to swat a Davio Mitchell floater at its apex.
Thor has a lot more growing to do on the offensive end. He mostly functioned as garbage collector on offense, scoring on dump offs and broken plays. His length and athleticism make him a lob target, and he has the ability to elevate and dunk in traffic out of the dunker spot. The rest of his offensive game needs polish. He’s a confident outside shooter and his stroke looks good, but he only connected on 7-of-27 3-point attempts as a rookie, a mere 25.9%.
He is very limited as a ball handler and isn’t going to create much offensively, but that will probably never be his role anyway. His primary focus this offseason should be to get that 3-ball to fall more consistently. That will make him enough of a threat on offense to make it hard to keep him off the floor. Players that can shoot in the mid 30s from three while also protecting the rim on defense are hard to find, and the players fitting that criteria become even more rare when you filter it down to the guys that can protect the rim, guard the perimeter, and spot up from three. Thor has the potential to do those things, and that makes him a very intriguing piece going forward.