Steve Lichtenstein, writing for his Steve’s Newsletter substack, likes Cam Thomas’ confidence and enthusiasm, as evidenced by a claim he could average 25 points a game with the ball in his hands. But Lichtenstein, who previously worked for WFAN, isn’t sure that Thomas will have the ball in his hand as much as he thinks. He’ll have competition from Lonnie Walker IV who the Nets signed to a vets minimum deal after averaging 11.7 points a game in 23 minutes per game on 45/37/86 shooting splits for the Lakers.
Whereas before Thomas, 21, had to frustratingly sit behind veterans like Seth Curry and Joe Harris in Brooklyn’s pecking order, he’ll now have to overcome a new obstacle in the upcoming training camp in Walker, a veteran minimum free agent acquisition with similar size and stats.
Walker, who’s 24, is an underrated signing by Brooklyn. He was paid $6.5 million by the Lakers and started strong for L.A., averaging 14 points early on before an injury forced him to the bench ... and Austin Reaves to the starting lineup. The rest is history. Walker did have a big couple of games in the post-season, exploding for 15 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4 of the Lakers-Warriors series.
So, Lichtenstein writes, there will be competition for the microwave role previously played by the departed Seth Curry.
Whereas before Thomas, 21, had to frustratingly sit behind veterans like Seth Curry and Joe Harris in Brooklyn’s pecking order, he’ll now have to overcome a new obstacle in the upcoming training camp in Walker, a veteran minimum free agent acquisition with similar size and stats...
It’s not like Walker is past his prime—at 24, he is just three years older than Thomas. And the Nets desperately need players who can get buckets, even if it comes at positions with redundancies...
He was a valuable contributor during L.A.’s Western Conference semifinals victory over the Warriors, even playing some defense far above his reputation.
Whether or not the Nets targeted Walker because they have soured on their 2021 first-round pick (No. 27 overall) doesn’t matter. The competition for minutes should be a fascinating subplot during the preseason.
Lichtenstein isn’t one of those pundits who dismiss Thomas’ primary skill, getting buckets, defending his overall efficiency and dismissing the criticism that he can’t be a playmaker.
He defies the analytics folks who dismiss the “hot hand theory.” When he gets rolling, it feels like the basket expands to the size of a dumpster. It was that way during the three-game streak of 40-plus points in February, making him the youngest NBA player to accomplish such a beastly feat.
Thomas made great strides in his three-point shooting, improving from his 27% conversion rate as a rookie to a more than respectable 38.3% last season. He also remained fearless around the basket, using his body to draw more fouls per 36 minutes than any Net other than KD last season (20 games played minimum), per NBA.com.
Lichtenstein notes that Thomas’ shooting splits — 44/38/87 — mirror those of the Blazers Anfernee Simons, “who is considered by most experts to be a far superior player” ... and those of Walker’s as well.
Lichtenstein wrote that Thomas’ biggest issue last season may have been his attitude when he didn’t play.
When he wasn’t playing, Thomas’ body language might not have helped his cause. You don’t want to be caught yawning by the TV cameras. From his perspective, it’s difficult to fathom why you’re sitting after showcasing such brilliance on multiple occasions. Unfortunately, that’s life in the NBA.
In his interview with Zach Shumaker of The ShuZ Show, Thomas seemed more sanguine about his place on the Nets roster, saying “I really just try to approach it as me trying to earn my spot no matter what… If the coach decides to play me he does, if he don’t, he don’t. I just know that I put my best foot forward.”
So, there’s little more to say about the two players other than their competition will begin October 3 when Nets players gather at HSS Training Center for the opening of training camp. Could be fun.