The Brooklyn Nets drafted Cam Thomas No. 27 overall in the 2021 NBA Draft with the expectation that he could develop on the bench before eventually blossoming into a starter or complementary piece. Unfortunately, the plans have changed, mostly due to the status of Kyrie Irving.
Irving is in line to miss the entire season due to his refusal to comply with New York City’s vaccination mandate. While most teams in the NBA would be completely distraught if a player like Irving was ruled out for such a long period of time, Brooklyn seems ready to roll with the punches in the early going.
Thomas is a huge reason why. The former LSU star led all Summer League players in scoring and averaged 10.5 points per game in the preseason. The Nets need to hit on some of their draft picks given the limited capital available to them in the next few years, and Thomas appears to be on his way to becoming a quality contributor at the NBA level.
Unfortunately, being a contending team means that the Nets may have to eschew the development of some of their young players in favor of some more experienced players. Thomas has done everything the Nets could’ve hoped he would’ve in the preseason, but he still might not find minutes early in his career.
Nash was quoted in the New York Post saying that Thomas probably won’t be forced into a role with a ton of on-court minutes to start his career, citing the fact that he needs to get some of the Nets’ veterans playing time before he can worry about Thomas.
“Might be tough for him with all the vets,” Nash said. “I think the gap that he has to make up in understanding the game at this level, the defense, all those things where he still needs development.
Why is Nets coach Steve Nash not going to trust Cam Thomas?
At face value, his point makes sense here. The Nets can’t act like a rebuilding team that wants to get the most out of their young players, so they can’t just give Thomas the green light to shoot as much as he wants. However, from a purely merit-based point of view, what Thomas did in Summer League and preseason play warranted a spot here.
Thomas led the SEC in scoring as a freshman by a significant margin, and he looks to be just as dangerous an isolation scorer as he was at the college level. If anything, he might be a better pro-range 3-point shooter, which should pump his averages up even more.
Nash sounds like he wants to make Thomas a more well-rounded player, which includes improving his defensive skills. While this is a noble concept, he’s going to get more education in that subject on the floor in the NBA than he is on the bench or with Long Island.
Thomas has shown mastery of the ability to make contested shots, score from awkward angles, and come through in the clutch. Irving is not a good defender, so almost all of his value lies in his offense. Thomas would replace his scoring in a more efficient, entertaining fashion than someone like DeAndre’ Bembry could.
Thomas has exceeded Brooklyn’s wildest expectations, and considering the scoring vacancy that just opened up, he fills a need. Nash has proven to be an aggressive coach early in his career, but he hasn’t been as willing to give Thomas the keys to the car.
If the Nets don’t start the season off on the right foot and start to slip on the offensive end, Nash might not have much of a choice and could be forced to play Thomas.