From Oak Hill Academy to LSU to the Brooklyn Nets, Cam Thomas has never taken the floor wearing any number besides 24. The prolific scoring guard wears it in honor of Kobe Bryant, his favorite player growing up.

After spending most of his first two NBA seasons on the bench, Thomas has broken out with the Nets in 2023-24. The 22-year-old leads Brooklyn in scoring, averaging 21.3 points per game on 44/37/83 shooting splits. He recently credited Bryant's mentality for helping him through the tumultuous start to his career.

“Just staying true to myself and not letting anybody change me,” Thomas said of his NBA path. “That’s how I really try to approach the game. Obviously, my favorite player being Kobe, I try to emulate that a lot, just from the mentality aspect.”

Like Bryant, many questioned Thomas' willingness to involve his teammates early in his career. Former Nets head coach Jacque Vaughn was in that group. Vaughn consistently alluded to “creating a team atmosphere where everyone can be a participant” when speaking about Thomas' historic three-game scoring stretch last season.

While Thomas' calling card remains scoring, he's been forced to lean into his passing after becoming a focal point on NBA scoring reports.

“Now, when teams are trying to blitz me a lot on the screens, it can be frustrating because you wanna come off and get one-on-ones and open shots, but at the same time, you just got to read the game and play through it,” he said. “That’s what I've really gotten better at this year. Because we played Atlanta [early this season], and it caught me off guard. I struggled that game a lot with the blitzing, but then you look at the film and just know where you can attack and how to read it. So it’s been good growth for me in that area.”

Thomas was referencing a December 6 win over the Hawks, during which he scored six points on 3-of-10 shooting with one assist and five turnovers. Following the performance, Vaughn said he pulled the third-year guard aside and emphasized the performance as a learning experience.

Three months later, Thomas has shown noticeable improvement reading defensive coverages, averaging a career-high 3.8 assists over his last 14 appearances.

Thomas' growth as an offensive engine will be a key storyline for the Nets over the coming year. Brooklyn can enter extension negotiations with the former first-round pick this summer ahead of the final year of his contract.