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Cam Thomas will start on the bench again, but sometimes fate intervenes

No one knows better than Cam Thomas on how the fates can intervene. After Summer League last year, where he led the league in scoring and was named co-MVP, Thomas was seen as a development player. At barely 20 years old, he was a precocious scorer but there were a lot of those on the Nets roster. There were some optimists. Kristian Winfield predicted he could average 10 points a game (he averaged 8.5) and might have a 30-point game along the way (that took place against Utah in early February.) It depended on other guards’ availability.

Well, after averaging 39.5 points in two G League games, Thomas became more than a development player. He became a go-to guy with Kyrie Irving unavailable, James Harden forcing his way out and Joe Harris twice under the knife. He finished his rookie season playing nearly 1,200 minutes in 67 games, He had some tough times at the end of the season, but despite the rookie wall, he proved reliable when needed. As Brian Lewis writes Saturday:

Thomas was one of only two Nets to play every game from Jan. 7 through Feb. 26, pouring in 13.6 points in 24.4 minutes per game. But after Dragic made his debut on Feb. 24, Thomas mustered just five points in 11.5 minutes and sat out four games over the final 22.

That stretch included a 28-foot dagger at the Garden to cap a 28-point comeback he largely engineered. Pundits may disagree on him but he’s a big fan favorite because of his familiarity with the moment and rival GMs apparently like him too.

Now, of course, things are basically back to where they started. He established himself as Mr. Summer League with another 27.0 scoring average in Vegas and much better assist numbers. (Do not ask him if he can pass.) His 3-point shooting still needs work and he struggled on defense as he did last year.

So, he will have to earn minutes assuming (hoping) the Nets don’t get the injury plague again this season. No worries, says Steve Nash.

“We’ll see how it goes after training camp. But he clearly is on a veteran team with a lot of guys who can play, have had a lot of success,” Nash noted. “We know Cam’s talented, and just trying to continue to develop him and see if he can keep pushing and getting better at certain things that’ll help him get minutes.

“I said whether he plays or he doesn’t play, he has to stay positive, he has to keep the belief that this process is going to help him. So, as last year we saw he played stretches of the season and carried a large load at certain times during the year and then other times he doesn’t play, that’s very valid and possible this year. Whether he earns a ton of minutes or doesn’t, we still believe in Cam. He’s a very talented young basketball player that we want to develop.”

The reasoning is simple: between the return of Joe Harris and Seth Curry, the availability of Kyrie Irving and the addition of players like Royce O’Neale, Edmond Sumner and eventually T.J. Warren, there are a lot of scorers on the roster, all of whom are better defenders.

“There’s probably more competition this year with Kyrie playing every night, Joe Harris back, Ben being a versatile player. That’s before we get to Royce, Seth, Patty [Mills]. So a lot of competition with the guard spot,” Nash said. “That’s why it’s really important for Cam to continue to believe, continue to work, not take any days off.

“Hopefully for his career he earns minutes, but if he doesn’t, look at the circumstances. He’s got a lot of tough players with a lot of experience, a lot of great complementary players in the group. So, tons of competition.”

The Nets, of course, could have traded Thomas in the off-season. There were plenty of rumors but nothing apparently came close which for his fans in Brooklyn is a good thing.

Nash praised another young guard Friday. He called rookie two-way guard Alondes Williams “a natural passer” and a “developmental player,” per Alex Schiffer. The 23-year-old Williams went undrafted after being named ACC Player of the Year at Wake Forest but did not have a great Summer League. He averaged 2.2 turnovers, but partly that was a function of other players not being in rhythm with him. Williams has NBA size for a PG at 6’5” and 210 pounds.