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Will Cam Thomas get minutes in Game 3? Jacque Vaughn hints he might but ...


Philadelphia 76ers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

By this point, every Nets fan is aware of the debate over Cam Thomas’ value to the franchise ... and most have taken sides. It all boils down to this: does the 21-year-old’s gift for scoring balance out his deficiencies?

The scoring is not in question. He averaged 10.6 points in 57 games on more than respectable shooting splits of 44/38/89. Then, there’s his 40-point games, three of which came just as Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant were exiting, the last on the final day of the season when he was given the green light and scored 46 as if to remind everyone what he can do when called upon, given the opportunity. When he plays 26 or more minutes as he did 13 times, his numbers are strong...

As Jacque Vaughn pointed out, in a bit of unfair criticism, the Nets lost all but one of those four 40-pieces. Thomas’ historic string of 44, 47 and 43 in early February came as the Nets were reeling from trade requests by their two superstars while the final game of the season was meaningless as both Brooklyn and Philadelphia rested their stars. (It should also be noted that his next highest scoring game, 33 points, came in the Nets spirited comeback vs. Indiana on December 10. He scored 21 in the final quarter to seal the win.)

On the other side of the ledger, there’s the complaints that his shot selection, defense and passing just aren’t good enough warrant the minutes he’d like. Vaughn tapped on that after the Nets lost in the regular season finale.

“The goal is you win as a team. So 46 points is great but we end up losing by 30. So you’ve got to attach those together. How do you marry the 29 shots to being a productive teammate where you might not get that amount of shots in a typical game? That’s the question,” said Vaughn. “So can you harness and take that ability and be able to do it in the shorter amount of time? In a more efficient time? And in a setting that it benefits the entire team? That’s the challenge.”

Beyond that, Thomas is a bit of loner, and on more than one occasion has made it known that he’s not happy with his role. Also, he’s lost his biggest champion, Durant, who pushed the Nets to draft him at No. 27 in 2021 and mentored him.

Also last weekend, Adam Harrington, who was a Nets assistant coach and director of player development in Thomas’ rookie year, hinted there were other issues in a Twitter exchange with Boardroom’s Eddie Gonzalez, who suggested it was time for the Nets to give Thomas more of an opportunity. Gonzalez deleted the tweet, but Harrington’s response remained up.

Harrington who left the Nets a year ago did not elaborate (and more than one fan expressed frustration with him.)

But now, all that said, the Nets are in a bad spot offensively and maybe just maybe could use a shot of Thomas. Other than the Twins — Mikal Bridges and Cam Johnson — Brooklyn has faltered on offense. So fans want Vaughn to relent and give Thomas a chance before the season ends. Vaughn, asked by Erik Slater of Clutch Points, if that could happen Thursday night at Barclays Center, was a big vague but indicated thins are fluid.

“I just thought that if we felt like we were struggling to get looks, maybe that could be an answer,” Vaughn said postgame Monday of using Thomas. “But I thought we got looks, I thought they were makable shots, and so is Cam on the back of my brain? Yes. And he knows that. Could he play when we get back to Brooklyn? Yes. But I didn’t think we were struggling to get looks, the ball just didn’t go in.”

On Wednesday, he reiterated his position.

As Kristian Winfield pointed out Wednesday, Vaughn was certainly right in his assessment of his team’s shooting.

Royce O’Neale played 36 minutes off the bench in Game 2 but shot just two-of-nine from downtown for six points. Seth Curry scored nine points on three-of-eight shooting from the field, and Joe Harris missed both of his three-point attempts in 13 minutes off the bench...

Not to mention starting point guard Spencer Dinwiddie has tallied just 26 points on 10-of-26 shooting from the field and two-of-eight shooting from downtown in Brooklyn’s first two playoff games combined.

That qualifies as downright ugly. Giving Thomas extra minutes is no panacea. He’s had games where he comes out firing — and missing but once he’s on the court, anything can happen and has.

And what happens if Thomas doesn’t get the opportunity — or gets it and fails to deliver? Would he be dangled by Sean Marks in trade talks. The Nets were reportedly offered a first rounder for him but decided not to go in that direction. Could he be a piece in a larger trade, a sweetener? A lot of fans won’t be happy with that outcome, but a lot of fans would.