The Brooklyn Nets might’ve entered the 2021 NBA Draft and offseason with the intent of adding more rebounding and defense, but they had to deviate from that philosophy when LSU’s Cam Thomas remained available after 26 picks.
The Nets made him the first of two first-round selections, with North Carolina center Day’Ron Sharpe being the other.
While Sharpe has shown off tons of the traits that made him one of the better big men prospects in this class, Thomas has been taking games over on the offensive end, with his game against the Washington Wizards standing out as his finest performance in black and white.
Thomas led the Nets with 31 points in an 84-81 victory that went to double overtime. It was Thomas who sunk an improbable one-legged 3-pointer as the shot clock was about to expire to win the sudden death format that gave Brooklyn the win.
The Nets will have perimeter scoring more than covered thanks to the likes of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. However, Thomas’ play has been so impressive that he has to have earned a chunk of minutes in the rotation. Brooklyn appears to have stumbled upon one of the biggest steals in the entire draft.
The Brooklyn Nets stole Cam Thomas late in the first round.
Everything about Thomas’ resume and stat sheet says he would be more at home in the lottery. A graduate of the prestigious Oak Hill program, Thomas averaged 23 points per game as a freshman in the SEC. Still, there were too many concerns about his game to take him that high, at least in the eyes of the NBA.
Thomas is not only a poor defender at this stage, but he likely will never be an above-average player in that facet of the game. Scoring is great, but can he pair that with the ability to make plays as a passer? That’s going to be critical if he is going to be a role player off of the bench as a rookie.
Undaunted by these concerns, Brooklyn took Thomas, and he appeared to have proven he can be an ideal replacement for the now-departed Landry Shamet off of the bench. Even with some efficiency concerns, Thomas is beating the daylights out of Summer League defenders.
Thomas recently overtook No. 2 overall pick Jalen Green atop the Summer League scoring ladder with 24.0 points per game. No matter what else happens in Vegas, the Nets have to walk away from this event extremely pleased with the play of Thomas and his potential fit on the 2021 squad.
Thomas should be the first off-ball guard off the bench this season in tandem with Bruce Brown. Given how Thomas has proven to be a lethal isolation scorer with defensive holes and Brown a limited offensive player that excels on defense, the yin-yang combination of the two could help the Nets in a major way.
We know Thomas was a bucket in college, and he looks like he will bring those skills to the NBA, but Thomas still needs to work on some of his defensive flaws. Considering that the Nets have a solid history of developing players during the Sean Marks era, Brooklyn fans should assume he will get those issues ironed out.
Thomas was one of the best scorers in this class during the pre-draft process, and he appears to be just as sharp scoring the basketball in Las Vegas as he was in Baton Rouge. If he keeps this up in Brooklyn, rival teams will despair at the notion of Thomas morphing into a Sixth Man of the Year candidate before their very eyes.