The flashes were always there for Cam Thomas during his first two NBA seasons. Whether he was leading a 28-point comeback on national television at Madison Square Garden his rookie year or becoming the youngest player in NBA history with three consecutive 40-point games last season, it was clear the Brooklyn Nets guard had untapped potential.

Despite this, the 2021 first-round pick spent most of the last two seasons on the bench. Even after the Nets reset their timeline by trading Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, he could not crack the rotation during the second half of last season.

However, Thomas earned a rotation role this year and used it to put himself on the NBA map. The LSU product has become a focal point of Brooklyn's offense, leading the team in scoring at 21.5 points per game on 44/37/84 shooting splits. And while he's still viewed as a third-year player in NBA discourse, Thomas said the 2023-24 campaign has been his first real opportunity.

“They say year three, but it’s actually like my rookie season,” he said following Tuesday's loss to the New Orleans Pelicans. “Actually being a key player on the scouting report instead of my first two years where I was popping up sporadically and catching teams off guard with my scoring outbursts. This year, I see teams are game-planning for me. When the games start, I get the best defender off the screen, they’re blitzing my screens more. So I can definitely see more of the game-planning to stop me, in a way, and get the ball out of my hands.”

Nets' Cam Thomas shows playmaking growth down the stretch

The attention from opposing defenses has forced Thomas to lean into his passing, a criticism of his game entering the league. His advanced numbers as a facilitator remain subpar. For the season, Thomas ranks 100th out of 106 shooting guards in assist ratio (percentage of a player's possessions that ends in an assist), per Stats.

However, he's shown noticeable improvement of late, making quick decisions off blitzes and even some high-level reads on drives. Thomas has averaged a career-high 4.0 assists per 36 minutes over his last 17 games.

“There was a game where we played Atlanta early on, and they blitzed me a lot, and I was a little caught off guard, honestly… So that was one of my worst games,” the Nets guard said of the importance of game reps. “Stuff like that [is where I've grown the most], honestly, because in my first two years, I never got blitzed. I was playing with KD and Kyrie and there was no reason to get blitzed.”

“But this year, just reading the defense, watching the film, and seeing how to attack in different ways so I can be more efficient and get my teammates shots… I feel like this has definitely been a big year for me growing in that regard.”

Thomas has done enough to secure a rotation role on an NBA roster for the foreseeable future. Whether or not that will be with the Nets remains to be seen. The LSU product will enter the final season of his rookie contract in 2024-25.

Brooklyn can enter extension negotiations with Thomas this offseason or let the market dictate his value when he enters restricted free agency in 2025.