Cam Thomas is producing like an elite bucket merchant…for now

Cam Thomas is producing like an elite bucket merchant…for now

This weekend, New York’s Balloon pop-up museum opened up beside the FDR Drive along Pier 36 on The Seaport. On the other side of the East River, Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas is posting inflated numbers of his own and is on the verge of either a breakout or flying high until his balloon runs out of air and comes back down to earth.

After the first two games of Brooklyn’s season, Thomas is the NBA’s fifth-leading scorer. Since starting off the season in his usual role as the second unit’s microwave scorer, Thomas’ hot hand has been cooking up a 3-star Michelin rating. Now, the Nets are faced with the conundrum of moving him into the starting lineup permanently once Cam Johnson is finished rehabbing a preseason hamstring injury.

The first few weeks of NBA action typically results in a few anomalies. The trick is figuring out which will fade away and the ones have staying power. Thomas is the most glaring anomaly in the early part of the NBA calendar. His telepathic connection with the rim has been one of the most impressive Thomas has done this sort of thing before. After Kyrie Irving was traded before the deadline in February, Thomas flashed top shelf scoring ability during a stint in the starting lineup. Eventually, Thomas regresses back to his mean.

There’s good reason to believe this streak won’t last. His first two games have come against some of the most inviting defensive guards in the league. In the opener, Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland laid out the red carpet while the Mavs defended as well as well0.29_thomas as a vapor.. He’s shooting 62 percent from the field, which is probably an unsustainable run for a 6-foot-3 combo guard whose backcourt address is so far from the rim. But a dip in percentage would still be worth it for a guard serving 30-point games in 29 minutes.

Thomas’ natural proclivity for getting legendary buckets during his freshman season spread during his only season at LSU. However, so was his erratic volume scoring. Thomas has rarely found a shot he didn’t like. Thomas led all freshmen in scoring during his only collegiate season, but a 40 percent shooting percentage and a 1-to-1 assist-turnover ratio cast him as a streaky shooting prospect whose impact is contingent on his jump shot falling at an absurd clip.

When he finds a crest, Thomas rides the wave like nobody else. However, after every wave comes crashing down, Thomas ‘ overconfidence can lead to him shooting his teams out of the contest on nights when the jumper isn’t falling. For now, the cylinder is wider than an aquarium. However, in year three, optimism is abound that he’s finally put it together. AIn the Nets season opener, Thomas provided a lift scoring 36 in 25 minutes on 62 percent shooting.

More importantly, he’s getting into the lane consistently. Nearly 10 of his 20 field goal attempts every night are coming from inside the paint compared to only three attempts from the same zone last season. The sample size is small, but head coach Jacque Vaughn sounds like he’s seeing some growth.

“I’ve always had extreme confidence in him, and that is continuing to grow,” Vaughn said on Saturday. “The best part of my day today was the shootaround and he was the first one to ask a question about the coverage. That made my day to see him grow up and be a third-year player and be engaged in how we’re going to defend tonight. That’s what we want for him.”

That could also be coachspeak to appease an emotional player. Two games does not make a trend, but there’s something there. Cam Thomas’ scoring average as a starter over the last 40 seasons would rank first among players who’ve started at least five games. Sure, the second-leading scorer was Michael Jordan, but you can usually judge a player by the company they keep.

Thomas first has to demonstrate that he can provide stability in the long-term for an elevated role. He has a tendency to return to cooking up DiGiorno’s Pizza quality looks and the buzz dies back down. He’s still only a scant two assists nightly, but it could be that’s good enough for a Nets team that’s trying to find its identity.

The Nets have surrounded Simmons with shooters who excel at what he’s incapable of doing. Thomas is Ben Simmons’ id. A former LSU one-and-done phenom, who plummeted in the draft, rarely creates buckets for others, plays middling perimeter defense, lives and breathes hoops and might have too moxy to spare. In balanced lineups, Simmons, Bridges and Nic Claxton can do the dirty work while Thomas fixates on producing buckets at an astounding rate.

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About the Author

Anthony Barnett
Anthony is the author of the Science & Technology section of ANH.