The Brooklyn Nets will return from the All-Star break on Thursday and host the Celtics at Barclays Center. The Nets have 23 regular-season games left until the playoffs start in mid-April. Over the next few weeks, Brooklyn’s going to be tasked with integrating new and injured players back into its lineup.
The 31-28 Nets are in eighth place in the East so if the season ended today they’d travel to Toronto and compete against the 32-25 Raptors in the play-in tournament. That isn’t the position that Brooklyn wants to stay in over the next two months.
Kevin Durant is expected to return soon and Joe Harris’ status isn’t as clear. Ben Simmons and Goran Dragic are going to eventually be introduced into the lineup as Seth Curry and Andre Drummond will continue to get adjusted to their new team. If the new-look Nets can stay healthy and mesh together well, they won’t have to worry about being subjected to the play-in tournament.
Even with the amount of talent that Brooklyn has, a lot of work is going to have to be done over the next several weeks. The Nets came up short against the Bucks last year with an injured lineup and the goal is to be in a different position this season.
To make it there, Brooklyn’s going to need help from its entire lineup, not just its starters. Here are three role players who need to finish the year off on the right foot.
3 Brooklyn Nets players who need to finish 2021-22 strong.
3: Cam Thomas
The No. 27 pick in the 2021 draft is one of the most underrated rookies in the league. You don’t hear Cam Thomas’ name a lot but you should.
In the 48 games that he’s played in, he’s averaging 9.8 points, 2.6 rebounds, and 1.3 assists. He’s shooting 44.5% from the field and 27.3% from the 3-point line.
In the 10 games that Brooklyn has played in so far this month, Thomas is averaging 18.1 points and is shooting 47.9% from the floor. He’s scored 20+ points six times in February and that includes his first 30+ point performance, which took place on Feb. 4 against Utah.
Between no Durant and a part-time Irving, the rookie has stepped up and been an offensive threat. His most impressive game of the season took place on Feb. 16 in Madison Square Garden when he scored 16 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and orchestrated a 28-point comeback win.
As the Nets work new and old faces back into the lineup, Thomas’ playing time is going to decrease. However, he’s still going to play an important role. He’s proven that he can hit clutch baskets and that’s what Brooklyn’s going to need down the stretch.
Thomas has no playoff experience but that’s about to change. He has a solid group of veterans around him that will guide him and the other rookies in the postseason. The 20-year-old has the potential to make his mark in what could be a historic season for the Nets. Thomas needs to keep his foot on the gas.