In-game commentators often talk about guys who are quietly good, players that help their team win with little to no fanfare or highlights. That's the kind of player I've decided to highlight in this article. One of Purdue's lowest rated recruits and least talked about players has been doing all kinds of good for his team.
So far this season, P.J. Thompson has the second-highest offensive rating in the country, behind Michigan's Duncan Robinson. However, since Big Ten play P.J. has the best average rating in the conference. Thompson doesn't take a lot of shots and has one of the lowest usage rates in the conference, but he is extremely efficient and can be deadly when he does get the ball. Defenses forget about him, and that's when he strikes.
Thompson's shooting percentage from beyond the three-point line is up to 40.5%, and 50% in conference play, after shooting 28.6% last season. He's also been a sparkplug for his team at times this season. First, he scored 15 points at key junctures to help kill and then bury Florida. Next, his offense was one of the few bright spots in the loss at Illinois. Then, earlier this week, he hit two big threes to snipe Ohio State. Even last year at home against Illinois he seemingly popped up out of the shadows and cut the Illini deep with two steals at the end of the half, eventually leading to a season-saving win for Purdue.
P.J.'s offense is more than just good shots. He also has a solid assist rate, but the one thing that makes him really special is how little he turns the ball over. His assist-to-turnover ratio is at 5.5 right now, and he actually has twice as many steals (20) as turnovers (10) this year. He isn't as explosive as his fellow point guard Johnny Hill, but he makes up for his lack of highlight reel dunks and blocks with smart play and that quintessential Purdue work ethic. He plays hard every time he steps onto the floor, he'll kill you with a thousand cuts if that is what is needed.
I've written about P.J. before, but this season for him has been better than I really could have hoped. This is part of what I said about him preseason:
P.J. is the most overlooked player on Purdue's roster, both literally and figuratively. There isn't anything fancy about his game. He doesn't cross guys up, dunk, or throw no-look passes. He just quietly does his job while the media and the fans marvel at the giants up front. P.J.'s game seems to be about out-working his opponent, and I think that is why a lot of Purdue fans appreciate him despite his pedestrian stat lines.
Well, his stat lines are no longer as pedestrian as they were last season. Thompson is still a quiet player who does all the right things, but now he is a much more efficient scorer and has seemingly adjusted to life in the Big Ten. This can make him poisonous to the other team's chance to win. His worst game this season was against Iowa, and he will now get a chance to redeem himself in Iowa City. We'll see if he can deliver a killer blow in an upset, but even if he doesn't just remember he is only a sophomore and he has two years to work on becoming even more deadly when no eyes are on him.
I'll leave you with my favorite tweet about P.J. Thompson from after the Florida game where he had 5 rebounds:
Thompson said it can be big for #Purdue when he gets rebounds as 5-10 guy. As players leave podium, Rapheal Davis: "PJ meant to say 5-7."— Nathan Baird (@nbairdjc) November 23, 2015
And remember, smaller assassins are even harder to detect.