Before the 2019 NBA Draft arrives, Peachtree Hoops will break down more than 75 available prospects with an eye toward what the Atlanta Hawks may look to do in late June.
This edition examines Duke forward Cam Reddish.
When the Hawks ended up not moving up on the night of the NBA draft lottery, it shaped the view of their approach to the draft. They’re now potentially positioned them to either draft a high-upside player that was unable to play his way into the top tier of the draft class or take an older, more established player with a higher floor. Another option, with the No. 8 or No. 10 picks in the lottery, is that they could aim to pursue one of each. Whichever approach they take, Duke’s Cam Reddish very well could get strong consideration from the organization.
Reddish was considered arguably one of the single best prospects in his high school class. He would eventually join Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett at Duke to form a freshman super team looking to make the most of their collective one-and-done collegiate seasons. While Williamson and Barrett respectively improved and maintained their perceived status among the would be 2019 NBA draft class, Reddish slipped.
From a statistical perspective, NBA teams should broadly be out on Reddish as prospect. He shot just 35.6% from the field (and a brutal 39.4% on two-point attempts) despite connecting on reasonable number (33%) of his three-point attempts. Considering his frame (6’9, 205 pounds, 7’3 wingspan), Reddish struggled mightily to finish at the rim. Despite him often being significantly bigger than defenders that would meet him at the rim, the West Chester, Pennsylvania product would shy away from contact. He had always been a hot and cold player throughout his play in prominent environments and never quite looked like a player whose confidence rose with the occasion to put his mark on a game. As such, there are many reasons to be skeptical that very much of his game will translate into success at the NBA level.
Since garnering the attention of national evaluators, he consistently played with immense expectations to perform as the best offensive player on any given stage. It seems he never really settled into being comfortable with those expectations. When considering that, the result of his underwhelming year at Duke could have a silver lining in the form of those expectations not necessarily following him to his entrance into the NBA.
Reddish looks like an incredibly and uniquely gifted scorer when his shots are falling. His ability to use a slick dribble package to create his own shot elicits comparisons to the best isolation scorers in the league. When it’s working, he can operate in the midrange and from well beyond the three-point line. However, across any significant sample size, it’s clear that he is not the most consistently confident shooter.
Having graded very well, statistically, in the pick-and-roll as a shooter and a passer and having met expectations in his numbers shooting off the dribble one wonders if there is reason for optimism. As he moves from having had very little space at Duke to ideally having significantly more space in an NBA context, Reddish could look immensely more comfortable in a professional setting. If he could land with a team that already has an established primary creator, he could potentially thrive as a secondary creator with his unique skill set absent the expectation to be the best player on his team.
That’s where the Hawks could be a factor.
Trae Young is unquestionably Atlanta’s primary offensive creator and he has embraced the role of generating quality shots for himself and his teammates. Only Russell Westbrook had more assists than did Young last season. Should Atlanta have interest, Reddish could be a player they decide to slide into a potentially valuable part of a young, exciting core group of players with no real expectation that he bears the responsibility to create shots for others.
He has the physical profile and has flashed enough defensive upside such that he could slide into manning the small forward position, replacing Taurean Prince, as the third-year player is on his way to Brooklyn by way of a trade that will be made official in July.
Just like his confidence as a shooter, his engagement and intensity on the defensive end of the court comes and goes. Should Travis Schlenk be convinced that the key to unlocking the potential of Reddish is by simply right-sizing his role, the Hawks could be a fascinating fit.
Reddish reportedly played some, if not most, of the NCAA season with a core muscle injury. He recently had surgery to address the injury, the recovery of which will keep him off of the court for NBA Summer League, if not a bit beyond that. It also impacted his ability to perform in individual workouts for NBA teams.
When one looks back at how much he struggled to finish at the rim last year, especially his inability or unwillingness to extend himself (with that ridiculous wingspan) and his hesitancy to expose his body to opposing defenders, one wonders how much the injury was a factor in that part of his game.
NBA teams have probably been working as hard to gather and vet intel on Reddish as any player in the 2019 NBA draft class. Given his exposure in highly visible environments such as the Nike EYBL, the Jordan Brand Classic and the Nike Hoop Summit, there should be no shortage of sources available to provide the information regarding Reddish’s mental approach to the game and work ethic.
Should the Hawks be satisfied with what they have learned about the 19-year-old wing prospect it would not be surprising to see them use one of their two top-ten draft picks to acquire Reddish and settle him onto a talented young roster absent the expectations a team such as the Chicago or New York will have for him.
In the aftermath of the reported Prince deal, which landed the Hawks the No. 17 selection in next week’s draft, rumors are circulating that Atlanta is looking to consolidate picks and move up as to pursue a player projected to be unavailable when it’s their turn to pick. Could that be a smoke screen intended to position the organization to secure Reddish with either the No. 8 or No. 10 pick in the lottery? We will not have to wait much longer to find out.