Peachtree Hoops continues its 2021 NBA Draft scouting report series with a glance at one-and-done guard Cameron Thomas out of LSU.
What did NBA legend Bill Russell once say?
“This game has always been, and always will be, about buckets.”
LSU’s Cameron Thomas is about buckets. That is really all he embodies, but as always, introduction first and analysis second.
A 6’4” and 210 lbs. shooting/combo guard, Thomas lit up the SEC with his flashy scoring as a freshman at LSU. He was named First Team All-SEC after leading the conference with 23.0 points per game (PPG). That alone has been enough to vault him into first round territory of the 2021 NBA Draft.
He is slotted at No. 26 overall on ESPN’s best available and 28th overall on Sam Vecenie of The Athletic’s prospect rankings. Thomas has also been recently mocked to be selected by Atlanta Hawks at No. 20 by ESPN as well as CBS Sports’ Eye on College Basketball Projections. So, this is a player that is within range and reason for the Hawks to use their first round selection on.
Yes, there is a redundancy here, but Thomas was an elite scorer in his one-and-done season at LSU. He takes a lot of shots and puts up a lot of points. He is a fearless shooter who will take any shot, no matter the difficulty.
While their games are different, he is a high volume scorer in the way that Bradley Beal is. He is a guy whose number one priority is putting the ball in the basket.
Thomas can make difficult shots at all three levels. He has the ability to get around defenders, use spin-moves and dribble moves to create open looks. He is often sizing up defenders to figure out the best shot that he can concoct.
His frame is not completely filled out, but he knows how to use his body to score in the paint against bigger defenders and is not afraid to do so. He is also adept at getting open off of ball-screens.
This is quite a glaring weakness for Thomas, especially considering the fact that he is a guard. Because Thomas is almost always looking to score himself, he lacks vision that most teams want out of their 2-guard.
The statistic that sticks out the most is that he had a negative assist to turnover ratio according to Sports Reference. Thomas averaged just 1.4 assists per-game (APG) compared to 1.7 turnovers per-game (TPG). This will have to be cleaned up on the professional level if Thomas is going to be trusted as one of the primary ball-handlers on an NBA team.
Yes, Thomas scored a ton of points, but he did not do it in an efficient manner. He shot just 41% from the field and 33% from beyond the arc. For a guy that has the rock in his hands and is shooting as often as he does, the efficiency is not very good. Trae Young was similar in college and he has turned out okay. Thomas is not Young but that is something to note.
On the other hand, he got to the free-throw line quite often and hit those at an 88% clip, which is extremely efficient.
Thomas is not a good defender. It is as simple as that. And it is not because he can’t be good at defense, but he seemingly seldomly puts effort in on that end of the floor at th.
He looked very uninterested in playing defense most of the time. This will hopefully be coached out of him, but for now, Thomas is considered a fairly poor defender. He did average almost one steal per-game at LSU, so there is potential to be worked with- it will come down to motor.
His offensive game is similar to Lou Williams’. They are both thin guards who don’t have a true designation as a point guard or shooting guard. They can both create shots for themselves and run the floor, and they are both great scorers.
Fit on the Atlanta Hawks
Thomas is an intriguing prospect for the Hawks to consider. He is someone who is most likely going to be drafted around that 20 pick mark that Atlanta has control of. There is a good chance he will be on the board for the Hawks in the first round.
The thought of Young and Thomas in a backcourt together is exciting if only offense is accounted for. This would be an elite scoring duo that would be difficult to defend, and he would work mostly off ball in situations where Young is also on the floor. The chances that he would start right away for the Hawks is slim, but that is a role that he can eventually carve out for himself.
Defensively, he is not a good fit for the Hawks. While the Hawks do seem to be in the market to add a guard to their rotation though the draft, Thomas is the worst defensive player out of the ones that will possibly be available when they are on the clock in the first round.
Thomas would add scoring, but not solve perimeter defensive issues that the Hawks may be searching to shore up.