Believe it or not, the former Georgetown Hoya has earned the right to be mentioned amidst such lofty company. In the 2013-14 season, Thompson was one of only 19 players in NBA history to shoot 40 percent or better from three in his rookie season (min. 150 attempts), joining Hersey Hawkins as the only Sixers to ever pull off the feat. Thompson proved to be no one-hit wonder, shooting an identical 40.1 percent last year to become one of still just 39 players to do it in their sophomore campaign. To parse those groups down even further, the list of players who populate both lists totals just eight: Thompson, the aforementioned Warriors’ Splash Brothers, Hawkins, Ben Gordon, Gary Neal, Anthony Morrow and Michael Dickerson.
Thompson’s performance last year becomes even more impressive in light of what he went through at the beginning portion of the season. First, the Sixers determined Hollis needed to rework his shot to obtain a quicker release. Already working to rebuild something he’d done his entire life, Thompson was then struck by am extremely severe upper respiratory infection. Hollis lost 20 pounds and was forced to miss 11 games of action in the middle of the season.
Upon Thompson’s return, he understandably struggled to regain his stroke while simply trying to work his way back into game shape, shooting below 33 percent from three in the month of January. However, once Thompson felt back to his old self, the rainmakers began to fall. He shot a sparkling 53.5 percent from three in the month of February, and finished above 40 percent each month thereafter.
Given his tremendous early success hoisting the rock, it’s surprising that Thompson has remained relatively anonymous in broader NBA circles, especially for a league increasingly reliant on the three-point shot. Certainly, part of the reason has to do with the general distaste for the Sixers’ tanking the last two seasons. Fair or not, the perception among a large portion of the public is that much of the Sixers’ roster has no business being in the league. For those individuals who don’t follow the team closely, Thompson likely gets lumped into that category; his original status as an undrafted free agent certainly fits that characterization.
Part of GM Sam Hinkie’s strategy has been to utilize the long-term timeline afforded to him by management to unearth nuggets of gold among the countless grains of sand in the basketball world. Yet, while Robert Covington has become the poster boy for the “diamond in the rough” philosophy, Thompson gets barely a mention. Now, the arrival of former lottery pick Nik Stauskas once again has Thompson becoming somewhat of an afterthought in the Sixers’ wing rotation.
Fully healthy and with a full offseason to hone that reworked shot behind him, it’d be no surprise to see Thompson have his best year to date. If Thompson hits the 40 percent clip again this season, he’ll join Klay Thompson, Hawkins, Gordon and Morrow as the only players to do it in each of their first three seasons (Curry didn’t qualify in his third season due to injury). For a guy set to make less than $1M this year, maybe a third year of excellence will finally be enough for the league to step up and take notice.