When they talk about “in the gym range” it’s a perfect way to describe Cameron Thomas. After being named First Team All-SEC and to the All-Freshman Team following an incredible season at LSU, Thomas comes into the draft as one of this years most prolific scorers. Thomas led all freshman in the SEC averaging 23 points per game and lost out to Arkansas Moses Moody for freshman of the year, which is understandable considering Moody is going to be a lottery pick more than likely.
From the moment Thomas stepped on the floor at LSU you could tell he was special as he scored 27 points in his first game with the Tigers. That set the tone for the rest of Thomas season as he put LSU on his back leading them to an NCAA Tournament appearance. To put into perspective just how dominant Thomas was, he led LSU in scoring for 20 of their 29 games last season as a freshman.
The most points Thomas scored in a game came in a 32 point victory over Texas A&M in just his seventh game of the season. In the NCAA Tournament, Thomas scored 27 points in a victory over St. Bonaventure then scored 30 points in LSU’s second round loss to Michigan.
Given his scoring ability, Thomas projects to be a fairly quick contributor at the next level. Thomas is still young compared to some of the other prospects in this class, but his scoring ability and confidence could make for a perfect fit for a team looking to fill a spot at the shooting guard position, which could be the case here in Denver with the Nuggets.
Per Game Stats
Thomas started in all 29 games he played in at LSU averaging a team high 23 points per game on 40 percent shooting from the field and 32.5 from beyond the arc. Even though his three-point percentage looks a little low, Thomas has the ability to light it up from beyond the arc when he gets hot. Thomas attempted 7.2 threes per game and averaged to make just 2.3 of them, which is a number that should hopefully go up at the next level.
Scoring is Thomas’ greatest ability as he averaged just 3.4 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game during his freshman season. Thomas chipped in just under a steal per game (0.9) as his defensive impact certainly wasn't as impactful as what he did offensively.
Thomas is at his best when he is playing one-on-one because he is almost always better than the player he is going against. His ability to create off the bounce is phenomenal along with his stop-and-pop shooting to go along with a deadly ability to shoot the mid-range jumper. Thomas fills it up in bunches, which is a problem for opposing teams if he gets in any sort of rhythm.
LSU freshman Cameron Thomas up to 73 points in 89 minutes through 3 games. Microwave scoring carrying over from Oak Hill, EYBL. Sharp footwork off the dribble to separate. Shotmaking confidence seems to rise pretty easily. pic.twitter.com/IAOjrtMDlt— Jonathan Wasserman (@NBADraftWass) December 1, 2020
A lot of Thomas scoring comes from mid-range jumpshots considering he averaged just over two threes a game last season. The most threes Thomas made in a game was five and he made four threes in just five games as a lot of his damage comes from inside the arc. Thomas 1v1 scoring can be defined as if you need a basket as the shot clock is winding down this is the guy you want with the ball in his hands.
Off Ball Ability
Not only can Thomas beat you off the bounce, but his ability to get open and find his spots is also what makes him such a dynamic scorer. Even though he can score off the dribble, Thomas projects to be an off ball scorer at the next level. His ability to always be moving and never stay stagnant allows Thomas to get easy buckets near the rim and from three.
Thomas is a great cutter to the rim, which instantly makes you wonder how seamless he would fit next to Nikola Jokic in the Nuggets offense. His finishing ability still comes into question at times near the rim, but that is something that Thomas can hopefully clean up at the next level. Still, Thomas ability to get to his spots and find high percentage looks make him a deadly off ball player that any NBA team should be dying to add to their lineup.
This is an interesting one because when you look at Thomas three-point percentage it makes you question whether a deep shot is his strength, but it 100 percent is. Whether it’s an unreal step-back or pulling up from the logo, Thomas can score from anywhere in the gym and his range was on full display throughout his freshman season.
Anytime the ball is in Thomas’ hands he is a threat to score the ball, whether that’s from three-point range or inside the arc doesn't matter. Thomas is also a real threat to score in transition as he can get all the way to the basket, pull up from the elbow, or drain a transition three right in your grill.
This happens with all great scorers, but for Thomas it’s a little more of a concern. Even though he committed just 1.7 turnovers per game last season, the stat that really stands out is just 1.4 assists per game. Once the ball got in Thomas hands he often didn't give it up, which led to forced shots that had no chance of finding the bottom of the net.
Chicago action gets Franz Wagner cross-matched on Cameron Thomas— Jackson Lloyd (@JLloyd952) July 15, 2021
And... he holds up
Uses both hands to disrupt Thomas at the point of attack pic.twitter.com/u7VjJLNH3F
Thomas just tries to do way to much at times and that tunnel vision isn't always going to work at the next level. There is no doubt Thomas is wired to score, but that isn't always the best thing for his teammates as it often leaves them in the dust. If Thomas can find a way to play within the confines of the offense and score when his team needs him to that is really going to allow him to have a long, successful NBA career.
This is a bit of a surprise based off Thomas height (6’4’’) and weight (210), which would make you assume he is a pretty solid defender. Even though he can be at times, Thomas got blown by a fair amount last season and just doesn't play with a high motor defensively.
You can tell a lot of Thomas energy goes to the offensive end of the floor as his effort can get called into question at times defensively. Thomas has a good frame though, so he is never going to get pushed around but quicker point guards and shooting guards will go by him and get easy buckets at the rim which has to be cleaned up.
This is a both a strength and a weakness of Thomas because even though he makes a ton baskets from all over the floor, he also can get cold and miss a ton. A lot of hat has to do with attempting just over seven threes a game as Thomas isn't always getting the best of looks and that is why his three-point percentage sat at just 32.5 percent.
This goes back to that tunnel vision as Thomas can get so locked in at times that he puts up low percentage shots. If Thomas can get his threes down to around five per game and improve the shots he is getting there is no doubt he can still average around 1.5 to two threes made a game. If he can do that, Thomas will get his three-point percentage closer to 40 percent, which will only improve his scoring ability.
A big challenge Cameron Thomas will face is making the game, and SHOTS easier for himself— Jackson Lloyd (@JLloyd952) July 15, 2021
He is a volcano, but it's difficult to survive purely on difficult pull-ups pic.twitter.com/v2JZDNTZoB
It’s not just threes though as Thomas will take low percentage shots from inside the arc as well. It all goes back to trying to do to much and just giving up the rock when his shot is not there. Thomas showed as willingness to do that at times last season, but it will have to be a more consistent habit at the next level.
NBA comparison: JJ Redick
Thomas is a great fit if your team is looking for an off ball scorer that can take your offense to the next level. The Nuggets are a team that is in the market for a shooting guard and Thomas fits that bill. His scoring ability and high upside means he could be unavailable when the Nuggets are slated to select at 26th overall though.
Some of the weaknesses we mentioned could cause Thomas to drop and if he falls in the Nuggets lap he is a player they certainly have to consider drafting. Thomas might not start for Denver right away, but he could easily contribute in year one as a scorer off the bench that could provide a spark whenever the team needs one.