Charlotte Hornets JT Thor continues to fight for his spot

JT Thor started for just the second time this season. The 6’10 205 pounds forward made sure to mention in the postgame interview with George Lynch and Ashley Shahahmadi that the Charlotte Hornets were undefeated in the two games he was on the court for tip-off. The 20-year-old, athletic forward has had an up-and-down career thus far.

Second-round picks never have the autonomy of lottery selections. They are often fliers taken by teams based on potential but usually aren’t in the long-term plans for a team. 2nd round picks are often included in trade deals as additions to trades involving more well-known players. Such was the case for Thor; he was involved his first night in the NBA in the trade that brought Mason Plumlee to Charlotte.

JT Thor’s ride with Charlotte Hornets has been anything but smooth

It is fitting that Thor couldn’t even enjoy his draft night before he was moved. Even when he got to Charlotte, he would have to get used to more changes. His first head coach, James Borrego immediately sent Thor to the G-League. He only played in two games out of his first 25, and each time for less than two minutes of action. It was obvious that Thor needed more time to develop his game.

It makes sense that Thor would need more on-court work. He was a one-and-done player at Auburn, and that was only after having not played basketball until the seventh grade. His athleticism was obvious, but it would take more polishing of his game if he wanted to stay in the league.

Despite some negative connotations that remain about the G-league, players like Thor are why it is necessary. It’s high-level competition, with coaches and instructors who are well aware of what is necessary to succeed at the next level. Thor took that coaching and worked on his game enough to consistently be on the NBA roster.

But there was another problem. His first coach was let go at the end of the season. The man that replaced him, Steve Clifford, had no experience with him. A new coach and new player can make for a tumultuous pairing. But Thor has found his footing late in the season, earning his playing time through his consistent defensive effort.

Thor is under contract for next season. He has a team option for 2024-25. He is due to make 1.8 million per season. The first two seasons for Thor may have been an uphill climb, but he has proven that he’s willing to work to stay on the court. The last bit of the season will be important to see what he’s learned in his journey. But everyone already knows he has the mettle to be in the NBA.