Cam Thomas of the Brooklyn Nets has been turning heads. He took home the NBA Summer League MVP while averaging an astounding 27 PPG, the second-highest average in history. He continued his masterful performance against the Lakers in their first preseason game scoring 21 points in 22 minutes on 50 FG%. Thomas was taking tough shots, often stepbacks, and making them at an elite rate. Despite the hype, I’m not sure if he can keep this up. Let’s keep in mind that Wayne Ellington was the man guarding Thomas for the majority of the night. With the Pistons, Ellington impacted their defensive rating by -4 while he was on the court. However, Thomas’ change of direction is spectacular and almost any defender would struggle to keep up. At 6’4 and 210 pounds, Thomas navigates driving lanes with a veteran-like approach and finishes through contact with ease, even if he is fouled on the play. Once defenders are focused on him driving to the rim, he can pull back and create space with a step-back mid-range shot. Let me tell you, this is one of his best shots, contested or not. His ball-handling is tight and the few poor passes he’s made while he’s caught in the air are common for an NBA rookie.
The hype surrounding Thomas’ scoring ability is incredible, but I do have one small worry. Despite the promise he’s shown, he’s played in Summer League and the preseason. Bench players are starting and athletes that never receive playing time are coming off the bench as the second option. Therefore, the competition that Thomas is going up against is significantly below average and will not be what he faces throughout the regular season. Will he stand and acknowledge the challenge with prowess? I can’t be so sure of that. We’ve seen that he loves to shoot his shot, whether he is making or missing. Consequently, if he is dealing with a greater defender in the regular season, will he continue to chuck up shots at an unhealthy rate? Given the fact that we’re unsure about whether he would do that or not is a faulty sign. You want a player that is smart and knows the game. If that means not to shoot when you’re off, then you don’t shoot. I feel that Thomas would not recognize this and continue to shoot.
Overall, I like what I’ve seen from Thomas and I’m excited to see what he’ll bring to the regular season because to me, it’s a mystery. Will he overcome my doubt, be smart about the game, and flourish? Or will he wither amongst the real defense of the NBA? It’s another chapter of the NBA, and we’re merely scrolling through page one.