Fresh off of back-to-back 40-point masterclasses and a third one added on Tuesday, if it wasn’t apparent before, it should be now. Cam Thomas is ready and ready now. Even with the new additions of Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith Cam’s role shouldn’t change much. Here are 4 reasons why Cam Thomas should play a significant role for the Nets during this stretch run, even with a reshaped roster.
Proven Production When Given the Opportunity
Here is Cam’s production in games prior to Tuesday where he played 20+ minutes this season:
3FG%: 49.0% on 3.9 Attempts per Game
FT%: 83% on 5.7 Attempts per Game
While the back-to-back 40+ point games on spectacular efficiency boosted these numbers, even before those games, he scored efficiently with good production anytime he played 20+ minutes. The real question is, why has one of the most talented players on the team only played 20+ minutes in 13 of 53 games entering Tuesday? Even before this sample, the production, when given an opportunity, couldn’t be argued against.
His Fit Next to Kevin Durant
When teams blitz/trap KD and force the Nets to play 4 on 3, 3 on 2, and 2 on 1 basketball, Cam Thomas is the perfect type of player to take advantage of those opportunities. His pull-up jumper becomes even deadlier against a retreating defense, and his ability to accelerate on a dime and get downhill to score for himself or, shift the defense and create open looks for shooters via the pass.
Right now, the only other Net not named Kevin Durant who comes even remotely close to possessing all of these skills mentioned is Spencer Dinwiddie, and you need more than two creators capable of doing these things consistently against teams like the Celtics and the Bucks.
In a 393 Possession sample size this season, when Cam and KD have shared the floor, the Nets have an Offensive Rating, eFG%, and Net Rating that would rank 1st, 3rd, and 1st in the league, respectively. Secondary and tertiary creation alongside Kevin Durant becomes paramount with how teams strive to get the ball out of his hands. That’s where Cam Thomas’ creation skills should fit seemingly alongside him.
Cam’s Improved 3-Point Shooting and Scoring Efficiency
In both the preseason and when he’s played consistent minutes earlier this season, Cam Thomas showcased what appeared to be a much improved three-point shot. However, due to him not getting consistent minutes in the Nets rotation, many detractors argued that the sample size wasn’t large enough to prove if his jump in shooting percentages indeed indicated his shooting abilities. We now have a half-season sample size of Cam Thomas shooting the three at a much more efficient clip than last year on similar volume (43.9% from three on 1.8 attempts per game).
Not surprisingly, his improved 3-point shooting has led to a big jump in efficiency (51.9% TS as a rookie, now at 58.3% TS as a sophomore.) While it’s extremely unlikely Cam Thomas will continue to shoot 43% on 3’s this season, with how good he is at scoring inside the arc, shooting at a 36% clip or above from three would allow him to operate as a true floor spacer on offense.
His 58 percent True Shooting % this season has also proved that he isn’t just a volume scorer. The only players on the Nets roster aside from Cam Thomas who can create for themselves on comparable efficiency are Kevin Durant and Spencer Dinwiddie. In a league where 3-level scoring has always been king, Cam has the 3-level scoring ability to show that he is the guard most equipped to consistently replicate anything close to the 3-level scoring that former Net Kyrie Irving provided.
In an 863 Possession Sample Size with Can Thomas on the court, the Nets have a 111.7 Defensive Rating and a 51.2 percent eFG% against, which rank 6th and 1st in the league, respectively. At this point in the season, that’s a large enough sample size to indicate that Cam Thomas can play consistent rotation minutes for a good defensive team.
The Nets can put together more than adequate defensive lineups around Cam Thomas with their current roster. Kevin Durant, Dorian Finney Smith, Royce O’Neale, TJ Warren, Yuta Watanabe, Ben Simmons, and Nic Claxton are a plethora of length that you can mix and match alongside where Cam is the only player on the court 6’3 and under.
Cam Thomas has made the most out of every opportunity he’s had at every level of basketball. He’s the All-Time leading scorer at the prestigious Oak Hill Academy, he averaged 23 Points as a Freshman at LSU, averaged 27 Points, and won MVP of the Summer League in 2021. Now he’s putting up numbers that we haven’t seen by any player not named LeBron James in the history of the league (He became the second youngest player in NBA History to score 40+ points in back-to-back games; only LeBron has done that at a younger age).
With his talent level and skill, there was never an excuse to have him buried on the bench. Now, with proven production, there is no excuse for him not to be a consistent fixture in the rotation; he’s earned it. It’s time for one of the better players on the team to be treated as such.