It’s almost unfair to think that the Brooklyn Nets arguably landed the best steal of the 2021 NBA Draft. The Nets used their 27th pick in the draft to select Cameron Thomas out of the LSU Tigers program and so far, the rookie has done nothing but show why many teams out there must be shaking their heads in regret that they picked somebody else before the Nets had their chance to take him.
Thomas has been balling out in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas. The last time he saw action, he turned heads again by exploding for 36 points in roughly 27 minutes of action during the Nets’ 104-100 win over the San Antonio Spurs. Thomas clearly outplayed Joshua Primo, who was taken by the Spurs way ahead of him (12th overall) in the draft.
Just 19 years old, Thomas also seems to have learned how to find and use motivation to fuel his game.
“People always want to doubt me and doubt my ability to score the ball,” said Thomas, before he went out and scored 36 points on 11-for-25 shooting — including 3-for-6 from 3-point range — in a 104-100 win over the Spurs on Sunday. Thomas’ 36 points were the most in a summer league game since 2018. “My progress has been great. I’ve been getting better game-to-game, getting a better feel for the game, feel for the pace. … I think I’m doing real well.”
Not only did some of the teams appear to have missed a chance on a walking bucket in Thomas, but they also failed in preventing such a talented scorer join a unit that already has Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving. The Nets don’t need another lethal scorer, but there’s no stopping them from doing that, either.
Sure, this is just the Summer League, where overblown expectations and takes are prevalent, but the potential has always been there for Thomas. He was a legitimate scoring threat in his only year with LSU for which he put up 23.0 points per game. Against the Michigan Wolverines, who boasted of a stout defense, in March Madness, Thomas went 10 of 23 from the field and 7 of 7 from the free-throw line for 30 points.
The challenge for Thomas once he starts operating in the big league is to become accustomed to having limited touches. He’s not going to have the same usage he enjoyed in Baton Rouge and in the Summer League once he gets to play with Durant and company, and that could take time for him to get used to.
In any case, the Nets got a good one in Thomas.