Over the next month, GBB will be profiling various players the Memphis Grizzlies may target in the 2021 NBA Draft. This year we will be breaking it up in to three sections - five to likely trade up for, five potentially available right around pick #17 where Memphis is slotted to pick, and five that surely will be there or perhaps the Grizzlies could even trade back and still select.
Cameron Thomas, Guard, Louisiana State University
- 6’4” 210 lbs, 19 years old from Chesapeake, Virginia
- One season at LSU: 34.0 minutes per game, 23.0 points per game, 40.6 FG% (32.5 3PT%, 88.2% from the line), 3.4 rebounds per game, 1.4 assists per game, 0.9 steals per game, 1.7 turnovers per game
- ADVANCED STATS OF STRENGTH (per Tankathon): Points Per Game (23.0), Fouls (1.4 per game), Free Throw Percentage (88.2%)
- ADVANCED STATS TO IMPROVE: Defensive Rating (109.4), Assists (1.4), Field Goal Percentage (40.6%)
- AWARDS AND ACCOLADES: 2020-21 First Team All-SEC, 2020-21 First Team SEC All-Freshman, 2020-21 First Team All-SEC Tournament
- CURRENT BIG BOARD PLACEMENTS: 31st (Tankathon), 9th (Ringer), 26th (ESPN), 23rd (CBS), 27th (Sporting News)
Microwave. Instant Offense. Walking Bucket.
These are all words and phrases that have been used to describe Cameron Thomas in NBA Draft Previews and it’s hard to argue with any of them.
Another word that I’d like to use — ascending. As he continues to rise up draft boards as we inch closer to draft day. Personally, I think Thomas’ ceiling is higher than many players in this year’s draft.
The former five-star prospect lived up to expectations during his one year at LSU, averaging 23 points per game, while playing 34 minutes a game. He led the Tigers to the SEC Championship game and the NCAA tournament before they were knocked out in the second round to Michigan.
While Thomas is moving up on big boards, he is not necessarily moving up in mock drafts. In pretty much everyone that I have seen, Thomas will be available when the Grizzlies choose at 17. So, should the Grizzlies pull the trigger on the sharpshooter or even trade back in the draft to take Thomas and acquire more assets?
Let’s dig in.
What He Does Well
Score and score often.
Cam Thomas has a one track mind once he crosses mid-court, and that’s get the ball in the bucket. Thomas is very skilled on the offensive end, as he can score at all three levels, as well as get to the free throw line. In his first and only season in college, Thomas led the SEC in points, points per game, field goals, win shares, and led the NCAA in free throws. He only had two games all of last season where he scored less than 18 points.
Mid-range scoring clinic for #LSU's Cam Thomas, who turned in his most efficient scoring performance of the season with 29 PTS on 9/13 FG + 10/12 FT as the #Tigers got an 86-80 W vs. #Mizzouri. The 6-4 + 19-year-old is one of the best scorers in the 2021 draft, via @DraftExpress pic.twitter.com/yaW8nn51Iv— DraftExpressContent (@DXContent) March 6, 2021
As mentioned earlier, Thomas is projected to be drafted outside the lottery, so chances are he will be drafted to come off the bench as a scorer. If that’s the case, then he will be able to make an immediate impact at the next level.
Thomas is quick and is able to create space with all the tricks he has in his bag. He’s got a nice turnaround jumper, as well as a step back, and he is able to take advantage of the pick-and-rolls on the perimeter to knock down 3’s. He also has a very smooth mid-range game, and has no problem creating contact, while making the shot to get to the line for an and-1 opportunity.
I love players with high IQ, and Cam Thomas has that. Many people think I’m crazy when I say he’s the 2nd best SG in the draft. The ability to draw fouls, the subtle playmaking instincts, triple threat composure. This is why he was the best freshman March Madness performer ♂️ pic.twitter.com/K6WOh2X0eo— KeeseeHoopScouting (@HoopKeesee) May 15, 2021
While Thomas is a threat to launch whenever he has the ball, he’s just as dangerous without. Thomas is not only good at finding the open spot on the floor, but is also skillful at cutting between defenders and coming off screens.
Confidence and low turnover rate are also pluses for Thomas.
Where He Can Improve
While Thomas can score with the best of him, he needs to be more consistent from the floor. He led the SEC in total field goals, but also in field goal attempts. He shot 41% from the field, and only 33% from 3PT range. A lot of that can be attributed to him being the number one option on the Tigers. With better teammates in the NBA, he won’t be relied on as much and can be more selective with his shots.
A big challenge Cameron Thomas will face is making the game, and SHOTS easier for himself— Jackson Lloyd (@JLloyd952) July 15, 2021
He is a volcano, but it's difficult to survive purely on difficult pull-ups pic.twitter.com/v2JZDNTZoB
Thomas also doesn’t bring that much else on the offensive end, besides scoring. He doesn’t have great court vision, and is very rarely looking to make the pass, as evident by his 1.4 assist per game average last season. Thomas can be a bit of a ball-stopper as well, and that’s not good when other guys are trying to get in rhythm as well. With his size (6’4”) he’s a slightly undersized ‘2’, so he will need to develop better as a passer to earn more minutes in the league.
That size can also make him a liability on the defensive end, as that is the element of his game he needs to work on the most. When on defense, he has the tendency to either lose his man, or when his man has the ball, he gets too close and they are able to easily blow past him. At times he also takes some plays off on defense. The good part though, is that he has the athleticism and talent to improve and be impactful on both ends.
I know what many people are thinking, is that the Grizzlies do not need another ‘2’ guard to clog up the playing time at that position. I am one that has the belief too.
You are not going to find many guys in this draft that can just get a bucket like Thomas can. De’Anthony Melton, at times, was able to be the bench scoring the Grizzlies needed, but he wasn’t consistent enough. I’d love to see a backcourt tandem of Melton and Thomas, which would be instant offense. Plus with Melton’s defense, Thomas wouldn’t be as much of a liability.
Also, Grizz fans who like Dillon Brooks’ confidence on offense will absolutely fall in love with Thomas. He has never seen a shot he didn’t like, and can also be clutch with the shot clock running down.
The Grizzlies would have to make a move though and get rid of somebody to make room for Thomas.
Most, if not all of the mock drafts have Thomas being taken after the Grizzlies pick at 17. I tend to agree that there will probably be better all-around players available for the Grizz there.
I love Thomas’ skills on offense and the potential he has on defense to become a two-way player, but he still has work to do.
In saying all of that, I would be fine, if not excited, if the Grizzlies select Thomas, but would be ecstatic should they trade down and get another pick along with him.