Recent struggles show Nets need more Cam Thomas

The Brooklyn Nets are 1-6 in their last seven games with Cam Thomas coming off of the bench, and many question Jacque Vaughn's lineup decision.

Jan 7, 2024; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) reacts during the third
Jan 7, 2024; Brooklyn, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) reacts during the third / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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Cam Thomas has been one of the biggest surprises for the Brooklyn Nets this season. After receiving smaller amounts of minutes during his first two seasons in the NBA, Thomas has broken out as one of the better scorers in the league, averaging 20.5 points on 43.1 percent shooting from the floor and 35.3 percent shooting from distance.

Behind Mikal Bridges, he is the second-leading scorer on the roster.

Despite his high-end production, however, Brooklyn decided to have the third-year come off of the bench for nine games in 2023-24, including the team's past seven, where they've gone 1-6.

Frustrations arise after Nets send Cam Thomas to bench

Many Nets fans have been upset with this recent decision from head coach Jacque Vaughn.

The LSU product, despite many solid games, has seen some rough nights too. Thomas hit a shooting slump in two early-January games against the Rockets and Pelicans, where he shot a combined 0-18 and accumulated just 4 points.

He was benched before those games, his first against the Wizards on December 29.

Crunching Cam Thomas' numbers in third year with Nets

When you take a look at Thomas' game, and how he's progressed from his scorching-hot start to the season where he had just one single-digit scoring performance in his first 20 outings, the first thing that comes to mind is his inconsistency and one-dimensional style of play.

One game he'll score 30-plus on efficienct shooting, and the next he'll shoot under 25 percent in a loss.

You never know what you're gonna get from him, however, at just 22 years old, it's expected with youth. On top of that, he averages just 2.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists, showing his game is currently one-dimensional.

Thomas is averaging 22.0 points on 43.9 percent shooting in 20 games started, which is quite impressive considering his age. In games benched, Thomas is averaging 17.2 on 35.9 percent shooting -- a noticeable dropoff, but still above-average in the points department.

Questioning why the Nets benched Cam Thomas

Vaughn decided to start Dorian Finney-Smith over Thomas and, in doing so, Finney-Smith is averaging 4.7 points in the last seven games, and overall 9.6 points and 5.0 rebounds as a starter.

When explaining the decision, Vaughn suggested defense and rebounding productivity were his reasons for benching the guard in exchange for the 6-foot-7 forward.

"For a while, we were starting him, but we were just pretty small, and it was tough for us to rebound..."

Coach Vaughn after a 111-102 loss vs CLE

It also has to be mentioned that Ben Simmons has been injured, playing in just six games this season. In those six games, he's averaged 10.8 rebounds and 6.7 assists, providing the off-ball presence Vaughn wants from DFS.

With Simmons on the floor, it's easier for the offense to flow. A lineup of him, Thomas, Bridges, Cam Johnson, and Nic Claxton allows for a balance of off-ball scoring with Thomas being able to create.

The problem is that the guard is not a distributor like Simmons or Spencer Dinwiddie, and he dishes out just 2.1 assists a night.

Barring any trades before the Febrauary 6 deadline, this roster's success is reliant on Thomas and Bridges consistently putting up 20-plus each game, because Brooklyn currently ranks 23rd in defensive rating (117.0).

At this point, they should let Thomas play so he can develop other facets of his game while his scoring and maturity improves. There's no need to bench a 22-year-old with promise, especially if the team is losing with him playing limited minutes.

With the Nets sitting in the tenth spot in the Eastern Conference standings with a record of 16-22, they can still make a push for the Play-In Tournament and Thomas could prove to be a major asset during this journey if they allow him to roam.

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