Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas faces a make-or-break year in the 2024-2025 season

NBA: Brooklyn Nets at Philadelphia 76ers
Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

When the Brooklyn Nets selected Cam Thomas in the first round back in 2021, he was supposed to be tutored by some of the best scorers in the history of the NBA. With Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden taking the talented young scorer under their collective wing, the idea was for him to develop slowly behind them ultimately taking over as the offensive centerpiece as the trio of stars aged.

While that timeline was accelerated beyond what the Nets were expecting, Thomas proved in his third season that he is a legitimate scoring threat every time he touches the ball. The young guard averaged 22.5 points per game on 44.2% shooting from the field and 36.4% shooting from three despite former head coach Jacque Vaughn consistently changing his role and playing time causing the young guard considerable frustration.

As a scorer, Cam Thomas has finally arrived

Apr 12, 2024; New York, New York, USA; Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas (24) reacts after fouling New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (11) during the second half at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

As a rookie, Thomas had the skills to score on drives and in the mid-range but needed work on his three-point shooting to really be playable alongside Brooklyn’s former superstars. In that rookie season he averaged just 17.6 minutes per game while shooting a ghastly 27% from beyond the arc.

In year two, his minutes were still limited, but his outside shot was greatly improved as he knocked down 38.3% of his triples while raising his scoring average from 8.5 points per game as a rookie to 10.6 points per game as a sophomore.

With the big three blowing up during that 2022-2023 season, Thomas entered last season with a clear pathway to a lot more playing time. He averaged 31.4 minutes per game, nearly double his average from the previous season, and at times looked like one of the most dangerous scorers in the NBA. Now with a legitimate three-point shot, Thomas is a true three-level scorer who can put terror in the hearts of opposing defenses.

Thomas is still a work in progress

Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets

Despite his scoring prowess, Thomas is very much still a raw player in many regards. Following the trade of Mikal Bridges to the crosstown rival New York Knicks, the door is now open for Thomas to seize the role of number one option on offense going into his fourth year.

His scoring ability is great, but in order to reach new heights he’ll need to improve dramatically as a playmaker and facilitator for others. Despite all the attention he drew last season, Thomas averaged just 2.9 assists per game last year. With a middling 1.55 assist-to-turnover ratio, it’s worrisome what will happen without Bridges to take away some of the defense’s attention.

Thomas doesn’t need to become a true distributor like a prototypical point guard, but he does need to improve. He can’t allow nearly all of his possessions that don’t end in a bucket to result in a missed shot or turnover. It is imperative that he be able to get other players involved and be able to create for them the way he creates for himself.

As a defender, Thomas needs a lot of improvement. Per Statmuse, he posted a defensive rating of 119.3 last season while the NBA average was 116.3 for shooting guards. A little undersized at 6-4 and not the fleetest of foot, Thomas doesn’t have the tools to be a great defender, but if he dedicates himself and hones his instincts he can be a passable one, which may be enough.

The Bottom Line for Nets’ guard Cam Thomas

Cam Thomas, Brooklyn Nets

The NBA is littered with guards who can score and do little else. While Thomas plays with decent efficiency as a scorer, one-dimensional players are hard to build around. Players who can only score either settle in as microwave offense bench players, or empty calorie scorers for teams on the long, winding road to nowhere.

When the Nets drafted him, they envisioned him as the heir apparent and a key cog in the next iteration of the Nets as a championship contender. While that timeline has certainly accelerated, Thomas will have every opportunity to show that he can be that type of player.

Most importantly, he must develop as a playmaker which will not only increase his efficiency but also increase the efficiency of those around him. Furthermore, he needs to grow as a defender to the point where he can at least be considered “passable.”

If he succeeds in these areas during the 2024-2025 season he’ll ascend to star status and give the team a building block for their hopefully accelerated rebuild. If not, he could soon find himself shipped out for assets as the team wallows in mediocrity. Whatever the case, his continued development will be fascinating to watch in what should otherwise be a slog of a season for the Brooklyn faithful.

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