Young players trying to establish their place in the league is always an intriguing storyline. Brooklyn Nets guard Cam Thomas is among the guys in that list. 

The 21-year-old’s name has been in and out of such conversations for some time, but he deserves another shoutout as he just showed out in the preseason against the Los Angeles Lakers Tuesday. While the Nets lost, 129-126, Thomas scored a game-high 26 points in just 22 minutes of action, highlighted by this shooting exchange with the Lakers’ Austin Reaves.

Thomas, as you may remember, was the 27th overall pick for the Nets in the 2021 NBA draft, a move that sparked curiosity among basketball enthusiasts. At 6’4, he was a dynamic scoring guard, known for his lethal combination of streaky shooting and an ability to fiercely attack the basket.

During the Nets’ star-studded era featuring the likes of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, Thomas found himself in a second-string role, waiting patiently for his opportunity to shine. Despite displaying glimpses of his extraordinary talent, he never managed to break into the starting line-up, even after the departure of the three superstars. He immediately exploded for 44, 47, and 43 points in a three-game span, which started literally right after Durant and Irving got traded.

He was the youngest NBA player ever to record three consecutive 40-point games, so it seemed like he was on the brink of something great. But then, he was relegated back to the bench after one subpar performance, only to close it out with a bang. It was a roller-coaster.

Here’s how it went:

  1. Scored 44, 47, and 43 points in succession.
  2. Went back to earth and shot 3-for-16 FGs.
  3. Averaged just 15.8 minutes in the next 18 games.
  4. Scored 46 points on 16-for-29 FGs (6/8 3s) in the regular season finale.

Nevertheless, the 2023-24 season poses a crucial question for Thomas: can he finally secure consistent minutes on the court? Standing in his way are formidable competitors for the coveted guard positions, including Ben Simmons, Spencer Dinwiddie, and off-season signee Lonnie Walker.

One glaring issue has been his inefficiency. While he has showcased moments of brilliance, it is marred by streaks of erratic shooting, making it difficult for the coaching staff to rely on him consistently. A key example was when he returned to the bench after those 40-point performances. Though it can be argued that the reduced playing time messed with his rhythm, it’s simply terrible to shoot just 38.7% in that stretch.

Additionally, his 6’4 stature poses defensive mismatches against taller opponents in the position, making it challenging for him to defend effectively in certain matchups.

Then, there’s the possible bad fit with the new key players, most notably Mikal Bridges, who’s developing into a high scorer, wing Cam Johnson, and big man Nic Claxton.

Finally, the defensive aspect of his game needs refinement. In a league where defensive prowess is highly valued, Thomas must work on his defensive skills and become a better-rounded player to earn the trust of the coaching staff.

Plenty of eyes will be on the young guard this season. He will be watched by the Nets and many other teams looking for his services, so whichever it may be, his 2023-24 could be a make or break year.