Cam Thomas has started off the season in a spectacular state of form. Thw Brooklyn Nets‘ shooting-guard has scored over 30 points in three out of the four games he has played in this season and, despite his team losing two of the matches, the american-japanese player has been a clear positive note.
This scoring streak will be somewhat of a ‘Déja vu‘ for many people, as Thomas had already caught headlines back in february of last season after becoming the youngest player ever to register three straight games of 40 or more points. But since then, and up until barely a week ago, everything seemed to go back to normal for him.
As quickly as he came out of nowhere to put up stellar performances, the young guard went back to being benched and playing a secondary role on the roster. He would end the season as an important player for the Nets over the course of the season, averaging close to 11 points in under 17 minutes per game in 38% shooting from the three-point line.
However, throughout the months that followed his scoring outburst in february, his situation on the team became unstable, as he would get left out of the rotation in multiple games by Jacque Vaughn.
That is why, until the first few games of this season, a big part of the fans have questioned the lack of confidence the Nets have shown in Thomas, a player capable of scoring with astounding ease in a limited amount of minutes. A hurricane was being repressed in Brooklyn.
The suspicions around his figure were confirmed in the return to action of the NBA this october. Cam Thomas began the season as the first player off the bench for the Nets, and he has not wasted any time to prove that he deserves more minutes and a spot in the starting five, an opportunity he has been granted after just the first game.
Performances of 36 points against the Cavaliers (off the bench), 30 against the Mavericks and 33 against the Hornets have made him the second youngest player ever (behind Shaquille O’Neal) to score more than 30 points in the first three games of a campaign.
Cam Thomas, a scorer with the gift of creativity:
Watching Cam Thomas play, one realizes that he is the kind of hooper who is blessed with the gift of creativity. Drawing a comparison between him and dribbling specialists in football seems so fitting as, even though scorers like him are not in such clear danger of extinction, they do share an exotic playstyle that sets them apart from others.
The shooting-guard possesses four traits that make him as prolific of a scorer as he is: his ball handling, mid-range pull up jumper, running floaters and ability to absorb contact when finishing at the rim.
Part of these strengths come from a good utilization of his frame, especially, his powerful lower body that allows him to explode upwards when shooting or meeting taller defenders in the paint. If that was not enough, he complements these attributes with superb ball handling skills and privileged instincts to switch gears and create space.
By themselves, the virtues listed above are enough to deem the player born in Yokosuka a high-caliber offensive weapon, but it does not mean that those are his only qualities. Thomas is also a very confident player who can be trusted in the clutch and who can comfortably shoot from behind the arc despite not showing in the first few games of the season. If he can go back to the percentages he registered last year, he would not be far from 40%, a benchmark that only a few can reach at the highest level.
Defense and continuity as the main questions to his game:
Despite silencing part if the criticism that aimed to explain his lack of playing time with his performances early this season, Cam Thomas is only 22 and still has a lot of areas to work on.
When it comes to his efficiency, his current numbers are very promising for a guard, as he currently makes an impressive 51% of his field goals, a metric in which he has improved a lot since last year (at least for now). But the main concerns around his game are still his defense and the need to have the ball in his hands to produce.
It is the case of a 6’3 player who allocates most of his energy to the offensive side of the game, so he is not expected to make massive contributions on defense, but he must (at least) improve his instincts in that facet if he wants to play consistent minutes.
The reality is that very few players can currently afford to be a liability on defense in exchange for their tremendous offensive output (players like Trae Young, James Harden or even Isaiah Thomas a few years ago come to mind).
On another note, Thomas also needs to have the ball in his hands to contribute. He struggles to score when another player fulfills the role of the main ball handler for the team and is not a solid playmaker himself, meaning that he can sometimes slow down the offensive pace of the entire squad when played at the point-guard position.
In conclusion, he is a player that has a lot to improve upon but also has tons of potential and has been underutilized for quite some time. His performance will depend on the confidence and responsabilities the coaching staff deposits on him and his ability to merge with Miles Bridges, Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie and the rest of important pieces on the roster.
It is too early to gauge whether he is finally breaking out or not.
Main image: @BrooklynNets.