HomeBasketball TodayCam Thomas: Brooklyn's Future Phenom Making His Mark

Cam Thomas: Brooklyn’s Future Phenom Making His Mark

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Cam Thomas is giving the Nets front office a lot to think about.

Is Cam Thomas a part of the Brooklyn Nets‘ future?

It was a fair question to ask entering the 2023-24 season. The prolific scoring guard spent his rookie year on the bench in the shadows of Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant. That didn’t change late last season despite Brooklyn trading both stars at the deadline. It didn’t matter that Durant and Irving’s departures came directly after Thomas became the youngest player in NBA history to score 40-plus points in three straight games.

However, the 22-year-old forced his way into the Nets’ rotation this season. And with every week that passes, he may be forcing his way into their future.

Thomas has turned in the best stretch of his NBA career over his last eight games, averaging 27.4 points on 55/42/88 shooting splits. He scored 40 points on 14-of-25 shooting during Saturday’s 136-121 win at Philadelphia, reaching the mark for the seventh time in his career and potentially earning himself a new nickname.

“That’s Mr. 40 for you,” Lonnie Walker said. “He’s a magician when it comes to putting the ball in the hoop. It’s like he puts a magnet on that ball every time he shoots it. He’s just a great player, and he’s young, so it’s beautiful to see because the sky is the limit for this kid. Day-by-day, step-by-step, I’m just happy to be a part of his journey and continuously see him grow.”

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While Cam Thomas turned in numerous elite scoring performances during his first two seasons, his desire to share the ball was often questioned. In five games as Brooklyn’s lead ball handler last year, he averaged 42.6 points but just 2.4 assists. Head coach Jacque Vaughn made it no secret that he wanted to see Thomas involve his teammates more when called upon.

“The three games of 40 [points] were awesome. [I’m] super happy for him, they can never take that away from him, he’s in the record books. But at the same time, we lost two of those games,” Vaughn said after Thomas’ historic three-game stretch. “The ultimate goal is to create a team and an atmosphere where everyone can be a participant and we’re gonna utilize and maximize everyone’s talent.”

Nets' Cam Thomas with ice in his veins, with plenty of overheating pressure cookers in the background

However, Thomas’ elite scoring during his recent stretch has been different. He’s posted four or more assists in five of his last nine games, making quick decisions and reading defenses within the flow of Brooklyn’s offense.

While his advanced numbers as a passer remain subpar (worst Assist to Usage Ratio among all NBA combo guards, per CleaningTheGlass), his recent development is encouraging.

“You’re seeing it at all levels now,” Vaughn said after Saturday’s win. “He’s just doing it over and over again. The game is really revealing itself to him, whether he’s gonna take a shot or whether he’s gonna produce something for a teammate, whether that is gonna be to the big at the rim or to a small in the corner. So I think the way he’s seeing the game is really impressive.”

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Cam Thomas forced his name onto scouting reports across the league after averaging 28.7 points over his first seven games this season, something Kevin Durant noted Wednesday following his return to Brooklyn.

The consensus strategy has been to double Thomas, forcing him to make plays as a passer. And like a veteran quarterback facing the blitz, he’s been happy to take what the defense gives him.

“Just making the right plays, that’s all I try to pride myself on,” Thomas said. “Just because of my hot start, I feel like I’ve been showing up [on scouting reports] all year. But I feel like they’re paying more attention now by trapping me… I feel like I’ve always been on scouting reports as far as how well I can score and how I can turn the game around, but I feel like the main thing now is they’re not letting me get to ISOs as much when I got a mismatch.”

“What happens with that is you make the right read, whether it’s a lob to Nic [Claxton] or a wide-open three to our shooters. So just playing the right way and reading the game.”

Despite Thomas’ impressive start during his first season with a feature role, his place in Brooklyn’s starting lineup has been inconsistent. He moved into the starting group after Cam Johnson suffered a calf injury during the season opener. However, he was benched in favor of Dorian Finney-Smith in late December, with the Nets losing seven of their previous 10 games.

The third-year guard said early last month that he hadn’t gained comfort with the team’s rotations while coming off the bench.

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Thomas re-joined the starting five for the last four games after Finney-Smith injured his ankle. He ranks seventh in the NBA in scoring during that span, averaging 31.8 points while leading the Nets to a 3-1 record. Despite this, Vaughn wouldn’t commit to Thomas remaining in the lineup once Finney-Smith returns from injury.

“I’ll see when we get healthy,” the coach said postgame Saturday. “I’m not sure what our starting unit’s gonna be going forward. But right now, I think this group has put us in a position to win games, and I’ll always consider that as far as being the best option for our team. The different combinations, I have liked the sub patterns that we had, who’s been out there playing with each other, I think that’s been a benefit to our entire group. So I’ll always diagnose and see what’s best going forward.”

The mixed signaling is par for the course during Thomas’ tenure with the Nets. However, as each game passes, it’s becoming more and more difficult to ignore his ascension as one of the NBA’s top young scorers. As such, general manager Sean Marks will soon face decisions on Thomas’ future as the former first-round pick enters the final year of his contract next season.


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