While most of the news surrounding the Brooklyn Nets has understandably been on Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant’s departures from the franchise, Cam Thomas has done his darnedest to shift the narrative of the team toward him.
Thomas, a 2nd-year guard out of LSU, was selected with the 27th overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft. After averaging 23 points for the Tigers and validating the scoring hype that came from being the all-time leading scorer at Oak Hill Academy and the Nike EYBL AAU league, Thomas was drafted to be a potent scorer off of the bench for the contending Nets.
With all three of the All-Stars ahead of Thomas in the pecking order on different teams, Thomas has erupted over his past three games and rewritten his future with the franchise. It’s worth digging into what he’s done that has made many so bullish on his future potential.
How good was Cam Thomas over his last 3 games?
Good is an understatement when it comes to the type of scoring performances that Thomas put on over the first three games for the post-KD/Kyrie Nets. Although the Nets only went 1-2 in those games, Thomas showed that he can be a true scoring centerpiece for an NBA offense.
He obliterated his season averages of 10.4 points, 1.6 rebounds, and 1.5 assists per game, dropping 43, 47, and 44 points in three straight games. He became the first Net and youngest player ever to hit those benchmarks and did so with a flurry of deep threes, rim attacks, and self-created offense:
Thomas stepped back into his old shoes and showed off the same sorts of moves he’s made his whole career, albeit this time against NBA defenses. He was 5th in drives, 3rd in pull-up makes and attempts, and 1st in free throw attempts per game over his dominant three games, displaying a relentless zeal to get to the rim and get points one way or another:
With a truly deep bag of moves to get his own from deep or at the cup, Cam Thomas has as high of an offensive ceiling as anyone on the Nets, if not higher.
Why can Thomas keep it up for the rest of the year?
When Kyrie Irving was traded, it opened the door for Thomas to erupt and break out. When Kevin Durant was traded, it blew up the door frame and the house too, leaving the Nets and Thomas’ career with a completely different future.
Between Durant, Irving, and the other players traded, the Nets lost 34.7 shots per game, which is 41% of their offense. While Thomas likely won’t get to average 25 takes a game with Mika Bridges, Spencer Dinwiddie, and Cam Johnson likely to feature on offense too, he should be high on the pecking order of the new-look Brooklyn squad.
An element that Thomas has started to flash growth in is his ability to create for others. This isn’t to say he is much more than a gunner for his own right now; he’s not. Instead, the fact that he averaged more than double his assists this season during his featured three games and has had two subsequent games of 2+ assists demonstrates the marginal growth he’s making to be a more complete offensive weapon.
In particular, Thomas has started to weaponize lob passes on his drives to the basket. With so much talent to score at the rim and earn free throws, defenses are understandably focused on stopping him from putting the ball in the hoop. That’s opened up windows for alley-oops and Thomas has displayed similar touch on these passes as he has on his floaters:
If he’s able to consistently put pressure on the rim with both his passing and his scoring, Thomas’ future immediately goes from star scorer to potential star centerpiece.
Final thoughts on Thomas’ stardom:
With so much uncertainty surrounding the new-look Nets, it’s certainly encouraging for fans of the team to see a second-year player looking so confident and talented on offense. Although he hasn’t continued to drop 40 every night, Cam Thomas still looks like a cornerstone for the franchise.
With the rest of the team mostly defense-oriented, Thomas will have his fair share of chances to earn the role of being the star scorer for the Nets, something he would’ve never had the chance to do behind Harden, Irving, and Durant.
Like the famous cliche, when one door closes, another opens. Although the Big 3 of Brooklyn is no more, they may have gained their next scoring star in Cam Thomas instead, which is quite a shiny silver lining.