Brooklyn Nets shooting guard Cam Thomas has shown that he has the tools to be an elite scorer in the league. And with the Nets still searching for the right rotations, one would think at the very minimum, head coach Jacque Vaughn would be able to find some minutes for the second-year guard as a reserve.
But in the Nets’ win over the Houston Rockets on March 7, Thomas saw his minutes decrease for a sixth consecutive game and did not play (coach’s decision). After the win Nets’ head coach Jacque Vaughn addressed why Thomas did not log any minutes against the Rockets.
“I wanted to see where [Nerlens Noel] was at. Obviously didn’t play Cam Thomas because of that. So, I didn’t want to go too far into the rotation,” Vaughn said on March 7. “So really just substituted Nerlens for Cam. Kept Dorian [Finney-Smith] away from the five position to see what that looks like if we were bigger.”
Before the Nets’ matchup with the Rockets Nerlens Noel had not played a game since February 8 because he was shut down by the Detroit Pistons before getting bought out. After a month-long layoff from the court, the former lottery pick was happy to “get some rust off” in his Brooklyn debut.
“It felt good,” Noel said of his Nets debut to Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “It felt good to get some rust off. Yeah, a little winded in the first minutes, but it’s normal. Nobody can get away from that. But I’ve been doing my fair share. But at this point I just want to keep building on that, defensive-first mentality, rebounding, just try and make sure I bring a winning mentality to the game.”
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Jacque Vaughn Defends Moving Cam Thomas to Bench
Thomas was one of the few bright spots in a tumultuous February for the Nets. Following the blockbuster trade that sent Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks, he had a three-game burst where he was averaging 44.7 points per game on 56/56/90 shooting splits.
But once the Durant to Phoenix Suns deal was made official and Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson got cleared to play, Thomas was moved back to the bench, which Vaughn says was not an easy decision.
“I had two honest conversations already with Royce [O’Neale] and Cam Thomas and what the expectations are for them. It doesn’t mean I love them any less. I’m always looking out for the best of the group and right now this is. We’ll see how it plays out,” Vaughn told the New York Post in February.
“We’ve seen [Thomas] garner a lot of attention as a starter, so I don’t think that changes. It will be great to see that against the second unit. He’s a guy we can put the ball in his hand when we need a bucket. He has the confidence to come off the bench and score. We’ll try to use him in that role to take advantage of some matchups. He’s someone we’re gonna continue to use, it’s just now he’s coming off the bench — for now.”
Jacque Vaughn Praises Mikal Bridges
It is safe to say that Vaughn made the correct decision in benching Thomas for Bridges. The former Villanova Wildcat has been on a 30-point rampage since joining the Nets. He has scored 30 points or more in five of his last ten games, including a career-high 45-point outing against the Miami Heat on February 15.
Bridges is not the talent that Durant is, but situationally he can be just as effective for this Nets roster as they have some of the same player traits. Tenacious defenders, effective in the mid-range, and never do too much offensively. Vaughn says that he is still learning Bridges as a player, but to this point, he is happy with what he has seen.
“I’m learning more about him, what shots he likes to get to, and if they’re going in, we love them,” Vaughn said.
“We do want to have a profile of really getting to the rim and shooting 3s and putting pressure on the defense that way, also.”