Brooklyn Nets Film Study: Cam Thomas Is Floating on Cloud Nine
One of the most difficult but aesthetically pleasing shots in the game of basketball is the floater. It’s a shot you see mainly by guards who have had it in their toolboxes since grade school. I mean, how else were they supposed to score on the schoolyard over the “big” fifth grader? Shot anywhere between 3–15 feet from the basket, the floater is described as an early layup. Essentially elevating the ball or “floating” it over a defender without using a traditional jump shot or layup motion. It also goes by many street names including runner, tear-drop, or in some cases, push shot.
In any given basketball game, you’ll see a bevy of floaters, runners, etc., from players and not just point guards. Shooting guards and wings have added this shot to their arsenal over the years and you’ll even see a center bust it out on a rare occasion. They come in all forms too. From the signature Stephen Curry rainbow floater that grazes the arena catwalks before falling effortlessly through the net, to the line drive runners from Immanuel Quickley.
However, one such guy has taken this type of shot and ran with it, and wouldn’t you know he plays for the Brooklyn Nets.
When Cam Thomas was selected as the 27th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, the prevailing thought was the Nets got a steal. Thomas finished his lone season at Louisiana State University averaging 23.0 points per game, good for fourth in the entire country. This scoring prowess was on display during the Summer League and in his brief stint in the G League this season as evidenced by his 46-point performance against Raptors 905.
Cam Thomas is a bona fide scorer. Plain and simple. It’s not far-fetched to say that he might be the best pure scorer in his entire draft class. Obviously, he has a long way to go in his NBA journey, but he has shown glimpses that he could potentially be a 25+ per game scorer for many years. Although his outside shooting leaves a lot to be desired—and I’m being generous even saying that—Thomas has shown a keen ability to get the ball into the basket inside 22 ft. Whether it’s tough layups at the rim, midrange pull-ups, or heavily contested deep twos, there really isn’t a shot Cam Thomas takes that he doesn’t think is going to find the bottom of the net. But it’s the floater that has really caught my attention.
To be fair, I wasn’t as hip to Cam’s float game until an appearance on the Brooklyn Buzz podcast and one of its hosts Nick Fay actually said it’s a shot he wants to see more out of from Cam. After that, I began to take notice and really pay attention to the types of shots Thomas was attempting. And low and behold there it was. The floater making an appearance in almost every game Cam took more than four shots. I even made a mini-thread on Twitter about it.
As mentioned earlier, Cam has been abysmal shooting from deep but very efficient when shooting inside the arc, primarily in the short mid-range (SMR) which is where Cam takes his floaters. PBP stats classifies SMR as shots between 4–14 feet. As of January 9, Cam is shooting 60 percent (27-for-45) in this area. In fact, 25 percent of his total shots come in this range.
NBA.com breaks it down a bit further. Between 5–9 feet Cam is shooting 64.7 percent on 17 attempts. From shots from 10–14 feet, Cam is shooting 60 percent on 25 attempts. Now obviously all these attempts aren’t classified as floaters, however, it does highlight how adept Thomas is at converting in this space.
Enough of the numbers though. Let’s see it in action.
When given space to operate Cam looks like a kid in a candy shop. His bag grows larger by the day, and you can even see some hints of Kyrie Irving in it. But we’re here to talk about the floaters. What makes his floater game so unique is that he shoots them from all angles and most of the time his feet are not pointed toward the basket. During a matchup against the Dallas Mavericks, Matt Brooks of Nets Daily had a seemingly perfect tweet to describe Cam.
Let’s take a look at what birthed this tweet, shall we? Here we see Cam receive a pass in the corner from Bruce Brown with Jalen Brunson closing out on him. Without hesitation Cam immediately puts the ball on the deck, moving laterally as Brunson is on his hip. At 6’4″ and 190 lbs, Cam is solidly built but has surprising verticality which he utilizes here to elevate and get the ball up over the smaller defender.
Sometimes the floater can come in a herky-jerky setting. A “no, no, no, Good shot” type of ordeal. In this clip we see Cam get the ball on a fast break. It only takes him two dribbles to get from the backcourt to the three-point line with Zach Lavine the only deterrent.
Whether Cam meant to pick up his dribble that far away from the basket or not, he shows off his gifted touch converting on the rarely seen 1-on-1 fast break floater. Mind you he shot this off his right foot, with his right hand as his momentum is carrying him right.
These past two examples of Cam basically hitting HORSE shots doesn’t mean he can’t hit you with the basic fundamental floater either. Against the Knicks Cam catches the ball at the three-point line. He had space to pull with Derrick Rose a few feet away but instead opts for the pump fake. Once Rose lands from his mini-contest his hips are open thus allowing Cam the space to drive past him. He takes two dribbles into the paint and lifts a teardrop floater before Nerlens Noel could get there.
This next one might be my favorite though. After receiving a gorgeous skip pass from James Harden, Thomas finds himself in the corner with space to shoot an open three. Again, Cam pumps and dribbles in but this time he has a former DPOY in Giannis Antetokounmpo between the basket and himself. Knowing a shot at the rim is basically suicide and the ground Antetokounmpo can cover, Thomas goes into his motion quickly, lifting a sky-high floater that may have reached the peak of Mt. Olympus (get it? Because Giannis is Greek) before falling through the bucket. And on top of that, he was fouled thus resulting in an and-one opportunity.
And of course, I couldn’t write a Cam Thomas floaters piece without adding his game-winner against the San Antonio Spurs. With the game on the line and Kevin Durant being doubled, Cam moves from the corner to the wing to provide a release valve. Much like in the previous two examples, Thomas turns down a decent look for a three-pointer and decides to put the ball on the floor for a closer shot. After two strong dribbles with the left hand, he rises a step inside the free-throw line and gets the ball up over the outstretched arm of the defender. Game…Blouses!! Again you can see the lift Cam gets on his shot.
For now, his three-point shot is lacking but examining some of the clips from the previous section you can see that, instead of settling for a shot he hasn’t had much success with, he’s putting himself in a position to score from a much more manageable area. With a wide array of choices in which to score the ball, Cam’s floater is one of his best and should prove to be a lethal weapon moving forward.