When the Brooklyn Nets selected LSU guard Cameron Thomas with the 27th pick in the 2021 NBA Draft, people jumped to call this pick a reach. Thomas, 19, was a scoring machine at LSU but didn’t show much on the defensive end, which is where the Nets need the most help.
His performance in Summer League ended all doubts about him as a player, however, as he led all rookies in scoring and earned himself the co-MVP honors.
Thomas was the first scoring option on a Nets Summer League team that had mild success, leaving Las Vegas with a 3-2 record. Now, with less than a month until training camp, Thomas needs to earn his regular-season playing time.
But where does that time come on a talent-packed Brooklyn roster?
What’s Cameron Thomas’ fit on the Brooklyn Nets’ roster?
If Steve Nash intends to start a similar lineup to what he used in the postseason, then we’re looking at James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Joe Harris, Kevin Durant, and Blake Griffin. From there, there are only three players who, one could argue, are guaranteed to play: Patty Mills, Bruce Brown, and Nic Claxton.
The recently-acquired Mills will bring a veteran presence to a Nets bench that was sorely missing a leader during the 2020-2021 season. Down the stretch, Harden would end up leading both the starting and bench unit, which really wore him down and may have contributed to his postseason hamstring issues.
Brown made his name as a Brooklyn legend last year for being the energizer bunny needed off the bench. At 6-foot-4, Brown mastered being the small roll-man and it led him to scoring 8.8 points a game in the regular season. His defense allowed the Nets to switch everything and play the fast brand of basketball Nash made popular in Phoenix and brought to Brooklyn.
With rumors of a DeAndre Jordan buyout, Claxton is now the only true center with NBA experience on the roster. His defensive prowess and offensive upside will benefit the Nets bench, especially now with Mills’s leadership and knowledge.
That leaves a few potential spots open for some minutes for Thomas to fill at the guard spot. He will be competing for a job with the new acquisitions DeAndre Bembry and Jevon Carter. Bembry, 27, is your protootypical three-and-D wing. However, after an atrocious shooting season in which he went 23% from deep, there isn’t much to look forward to. He could potentially turn it around, but it’s not wise to buy any Bembry stock before the season begins.
Carter, on the other hand, is more interesting. The 25-year-old point guard dropped out of the Phoenix rotation during the postseason due to offensive struggles. Yet, his defense is almost too good for Nash and company to not give him a shot.
He’s an extremely smart player and has potential to be a leader. With the Suns, he shot 37.1% from three on 2.5 attempts per game. In a lineup with Harden, he could be a valuable spot-up shooter while Thomas improves on that part of his game.
Thomas, however, should take some of these minutes midway through the season and provide a scoring spark for Brooklyn’s bench unit. For now, Thomas needs to improve on his catch-and-shoot three to increase his value and justify that playing time.
Mills will be handling the ball a lot and Thomas must improve his cutting and shot creation out of a system rather than creating his own offense. No matter what role he assumes, he will quickly become a valuable member of a championship-seeking Brooklyn team if he can assimilate quickly.