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Nets’ Jacque Vaughn says Cam Thomas is a ‘heck of a basketball player’

One of the central themes of the 2023-24 season for the Brooklyn Nets has been the role of super-scoring guard Cam Thomas. Thomas, 22, has been Brooklyn’s best scorer this season and while his game has its flaws, what he does on the offensive end is just too good for anyone on the team to ignore.

Thursday’s 111-102 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in Paris was another example of what Thomas’ offensive ability can provide for the Nets when the team is trying to win games against tough opponents. In fact, in the first quarter where Brooklyn scored just 16 points against the Cavaliers’ switch-everything defense, Thomas poured in 10 of those points while playing just 4:12 in the period.

More to the point, Thomas’ 15 points in the second half was one of the main reasons, along with Mikal Bridges and Lonnie Walker IV, that the Nets were able to almost complete the comeback from a 26-point deficit in the third quarter. However, Thursday brought to light another topic regarding Brooklyn and that is whether benching Thomas was the right decision for this team.

Thomas was sent to the bench in favor of forward Dorian Finney-Smith after a 144-122 home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Dec. 27 in which the Nets sat most of the veterans from the beginning and stopped playing guys like Thomas, Bridges, and Royce O’Neale after the first quarter in a winnable game. Brooklyn was later fined $100,000 by the NBA for violating the league’s Player Participation Policy.

Since Thomas’ benching, the Nets are 1-6 and have been the third-worst team in offensive rating (107.9) and the fifth-worst team in net rating (-9.5). The problem with the Nets is obviously bigger than whether Thomas starts or not, but Thursday’s Paris game made it clear that Brooklyn’s offense is considerably better with him on the floor.

Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn was asked after the game if he still saw Thomas as a sixth-man or if he could see Thomas making his way back into the starting lineup at some point later this season. Vaughn didn’t exactly say no, but he didn’t say yes either:

“It’s interesting. For awhile, we were starting him, but we were just pretty small. It was tough for us to rebound. You see some opportunities tonight when we are small, that’s the real disadvantage for us is rebounding the basketball, giving guys extra opportunities. What I do see for him is he’s a heck of a basketball player and my message to him was some nights, you’re going to finish. Some nights, you’re going to start. It could be vice versa. Tonight, he didn’t start, but he finished the game for us and so, I’m just going to continue to coach him as a basketball player. Whether it’s sixth, seventh, eighth starter, appreciate what he does for us as a basketball player.”

Story originally appeared on Nets Wire