When news broke that Kyrie Irving would be away from the Nets for the foreseeable future due to her resistance to the COVID-19 vaccine, the next logical question was how the Nets would replace her impact? And honestly, just under 27 points per game with 50/40/90 mega-efficiency, as the song that dominated my childhood says, irreplaceable.
The next natural step would be to simply insert Kyrie Irving’s save in its place. But Patty Mills is best used as dynamo off the ball; he’s not your typical go-to-attack type of playmaker, picking-and-rolling at a very average rate of 0.86 points per possession, which sits in the 52nd percentile. Jevon Carter didn’t really thrive after being pushed into the driver’s seat in Brooklyn’s first preseason game against the the Los Angeles Lakers.
That leaves us with a rookie feel, Cam Thomas, who has already captured the hearts of Nets Nation with a plethora of snaps worthy of Sam Cassell Celebration. On the outside, Thomas is the natural heir to Irving’s mindset of shooting first (and sometimes second).
But there are a lot of things that separate these two players, duh, cold alert, and seven All-Star caps are a great place to start. So that’s not to say that Thomas can just become a 1-to-1 substitute for an all-time shooter. In fact, throwing himself forward, Thomas could at best ignite the nylons in 12-15 minutes per game while also splitting the floor with one of the Brooklyn stars to simplify his decision-making.
It seems I’m not the only one thinking. Preseason takeaways are fickle, if not insane, but after Thomas’ dynamic shot in what was essentially competitive waste time in Brooklyn’s second preseason game against the milwaukee dollars, the new 20-year-old goalkeeper was Steve Nash’s eighth replacement on the bench in the very next game against the Philadelphia 76ers alongside Paul Millsap – ahead of DeAndre ‘Bembry, Jevon Carter and James Johnson. Then, following Thomas’ second passage from the 2:48 mark in the third quarter to the 5:31 mark in the fourth quarter in Philadelphia, Cam was again substituted in tandem with Paul Millsap, a player who is undoubtedly regarded as an integral part of Brooklyn’s rotation this season.
What I’m saying is Cam Thomas is already substituted in and out of preseason games as a low-end rotational player. Does that mean anything? Probably not; preseason usually doesn’t make sense (see: 2019-2020 Taurean Prince show numbers). But there is a very slim chance that we will get a glimpse of Steve Nash’s planned substitution patterns with the electric. LSU product. In 20 minutes of play total in his last two games, we’ve had a pretty good appetizer for what Killa Cam brings to the table.
A good place to start is Cam’s grueling trio against the Milwaukee Bucks. Dribbling between the legs in a hesitating motion (sometimes known as a “tween hesi”) is one thing, but what I noticed was that Thomas specifically called out Nicolas Claxton in the room to define a screen, thus swinging Jordan Nwora, Milwaukee’s top scorer at 30 points, on him before splashing the pull-up three. Who is Cam. He’s a killer. He wants to expose the best player of the other team. He takes these clashes personally.
This unwavering confidence can sometimes pull Cam into dangerous territory. How dangerous you can ask? Well, looking at the Nets franchise player, better yet, the best player in the world to win a hotly contested three pull-up with 19 seconds on the shot clock is, well, daring young gun stuff.
(It should be noted that Thomas was immediately taken out of the game after hoisting this one.)
Personally, I did not find Thomas to be a particularly skilled pick-and-roll orchestrator; he is more of an expert isolationist, and placing Thomas at the top of the key in making decisions for the all The offense has been a lump sum loss so far in the preseason. The aid advocates reading and soil mapping are not yet in Thomas’ wheelhouse – yes, yes, I hear you … we’re talking about a tiny sample – and this was made worse by a handful that is missing some components.
Ball safety has been a thorn in Cam’s side in his last two exhibition games. He recorded just two assists and five turnovers, and his opponents struggled to swindle Thomas when he bowed his head to lead. It’s hard to imagine Cam replacing even a fraction of the impact on Kyrie’s ball if it’s that easy to dislodge his dribble.
That doesn’t mean I think Cam Thomas is a “bad dribbler” or anything. Rather, there are certain things he can improve on as a ball handler, a good example being his pickup point. In the room below, Thomas walks past his man, Paul Reed, taking off with his explosive first step after a hesitant dribble. Things start to go wrong when he gets the ball back soon after his second dribble. With the basketball sitting there to take it, it’s an easy choice for Sixers’ backup center Andre Drummond, who “digs” and slips the ball out of the hands of the eager rookie.
Here is an even better example. Thomas gets out of a side pick-and-roll, resets at the top of the key, then charges downhill toward the rim. After his second dribble (notice a tendency?), Thomas recovers the ball to avoid neighboring defender Georgios Kalaitzakis, who “digs” for theft. But wait, check where Thomas decides to stop that dribble live – he’s practically on the free throw line, 14 or 15 feet away, with two defenders circling him and just two more steps (well, three counting his no gathering) at his disposal to create something for himself. Here is a screenshot. It is manner the devil over there!
It shouldn’t be incredibly shocking to learn that what results in this less than ideal situation is a lopsided runner in which Thomas’ momentum practically carries him behind the hoop, and the shot slams off the rim. Again, situations where Thomas reads more than one defender have proven to be precarious, and he’s prone to pickup points far too early if a defender helps a defender put an arm up for theft.
I’d rather Cam Thomas next to one of the Brooklyn stars than direct the show himself. Great
Three Two, ”Kevin Durant and James Harden, are the elite for creating advantages for their teammates by attracting defenders for help, and for a guy like Cam Thomas, who likes to beat his defender in mano-e-mano situations. , it’s practically nirvana. Attacking a crooked defense is a cheat code for young Cam.
Below, Philadelphia’s offense involves stopping Kevin Durant and James Harden. So when the ball finds Cam in the corner after swinging action, nearby assist defenders Georges Niang and Danny Green are far too concerned with the 7/13 duo flanking the perimeter. Thomas takes on the (much easier) role of game finisher – and still gets the same amount of credit on the stats sheet as if he were generating opportunities for himself.
Of course, leading the attack isn’t just about scoring individually each time on the pitch. There are, after all, four guys who flank the point guard for a reason; tactically involving teammates in an interconnected network is the key to achieving substantial synergy.
And this, my friends, is another area of growth for young Cam Thomas. The preseason isn’t the first time he’s recorded more turnovers than assists. In the Summer League, Cam has averaged two assists and 3.8 turnovers in his total four games. At LSU, that trend continued with 49 turnovers and just 42 total assists.
The rookie goalie thrives when the pass reading is directly in front of him. During that semi-transition possession against Philadelphia, Thomas holds his head up while pushing the pace and spots Paul Millsap tiptoeing around the dunk spot. This Chris Sale-esque handgun pass is simple, yet effective.
However, when Thomas needs to spot the passage read on the periphery of his vision, that’s where things tend to go wrong. Below, Cam “rejects” Nicolas Claxton’s screen and lashes out in the teeth of the defense. While this is happening, David Duke Jr. mounts the wing for a “shaking action” to create additional space for a passage window. Here’s a screenshot to illustrate just how open David Duke Jr. was.
Yet instead of kicking Duke Jr., who could shoot or cut himself towards the rim, Thomas chooses to lift one in the middle of three active Bucks defenders. Listen, I get it. Duke Jr. is perhaps more of a “theoretical spacer” than a proven sniper, and Cam Thomas is, in layman’s terms, a walking bucket; but it’s important for the Brooklyn makers to make the right play as many times as humanly possible, and here that means a pass to the open player on the perimeter.
Similar to his score, there are some technical things Thomas is working on as a passer. On that empty corner pick-and-roll with Claxton, he’s a second behind with the rebound pass, leading to turnover.
Did you catch it? Wait, give me a second … IMPROVE THE IMAGE.
Do you see it? Just there! There is a window for Thomas to slip a one-handed wrap around pass to the Rolling Clax. Instead, Cam forces him with both hands, late and with a little too much mustard.
Cam Thomas can immediately compete for minutes, especially with the departure of Kyrie Irving. It has that unbearable trait of large-scale shooting, which, mundane as it sounds, does matter. You need guys who can stay strong in the crucial moments and not collapse into nothingness. In addition, the 20-year-old is used to scoring points. He’s already a top-level one-on-one player in the league. Yeah, I said it.
Like any young player, Thomas comes with his warts. The pass is one thing, but its grip has been prone to misadventure against secondary defenders. Creating an environment without complications is paramount for Cam Thomas at this point in his career, and thankfully he’s playing alongside two all-time offensive talents who can lighten Cam’s load and allow him to do what he does. better: to mark.
Sharing the field alongside James Harden and Kevin Durant, picking their brains and learning the tools of the trade, and creating themselves as a “secondary” destroyer … that’s the ideal role for the first-year supersonic scorer. Of course, he’s by no means a replacement for Kyrie Irving, but Cam Thomas can certainly help share the burden.