Buzz surrounded the night of the 2019 NBA Draft, not only around Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, but also for those centered on the Atlanta Hawks. The club held three of the first 17 selections, despite the Taurean Prince-Brooklyn trade not yet being official. The Hawks never made that No. 17 overall pick, trading it along with the No. 8 overall selection (among other things) to the New Orleans Pelicans for the rights to De’Andre Hunter. Later in the lottery, the Hawks selected Cam Reddish out of Duke with the No. 10 overall section. Reddish was rehabbing from a core muscle injury when selected, and was not able to participate in Summer League action as he worked his way back into health and playing condition.
“The schedule really, whole bunch of traveling... getting acclimated,” Reddish recently told Peachtree Hoops when talking about getting accustomed to the life of an NBA player. “Like you said, I didn’t play any summer league, I hadn’t really played any basketball going into training camp (since Duke).” He spoke about the difference— both at home and on the road— between school ball (high school or college) and being a professional.
“Typically you’d be in class, study hall...it’s a little bit of an adjustment,” Reddish continued. “Obviously in college I had a lot of people with me, around me, now (in my free-time) I’m just sitting around playing with my dog.”
Reddish finally debuted for the Hawks in their preseason opener against the Pelicans, scoring 11 points in 15 minutes. The No. 10 pick would proceed to struggle in the remainder of the preseason, scoring just 15 points over his next three contests, and missing the final preseason game in Chicago with what was listed as a minor hip issue.
The rookie would go on to start his first NBA game in the Hawks’ season opener, at shooting guard with incumbent starter Kevin Huerter still on a minutes restriction after missing the preseason with an injury. The rookie wing was very solid defensively, but struggled to the tune of 0-for-6 from the floor, scoring just one point in his debut. Reddish was tasked with guarding Reggie Jackson, Detroit’s starting point guard at the time, and also grabbed seven rebounds in the contest.
Reddish finished the night +11 in the box score and the Hawks won the game. The defensive versatility was present from day one, as he was serving his purpose on that end by allowing Trae Young to move off-ball and guard Bruce Brown Jr., probably the Pistons’ fifth option offensively that night (among the starters).
This developed into something of a theme early in the season — Reddish being an excellent weapon for the Hawks defensively — while truly struggling to find his rhythm offensively. As a sidebar, the Hawks not being wholly inept from an offensive personnel standpoint on the second unit early in the season probably would have helped mask some of this, but alas.
As the season inched along, rumblings of worry were echoed throughout the fan base, and it’s hard to blame them, in fairness. On Nov. 19, Reddish was shooting 27% from the floor through his first 13 games, and 18.8% from three-point-range, ranking in the fourth percentile among wings per Cleaning the Glass. He was not exactly living up to the ‘3-and-D’ moniker attached to his name during the draft process.
Given the nature in which he was thrust into the NBA essentially 40 games out of high school and AAU ball, Reddish maintained a confident poise throughout the struggle, citing his faith as a source of confidence.
“[Faith is] everything for me,” Reddish explained. “That’s how I grew up, how I was raised, I truly really believe it. With God anything is possible. I’ll always believe that, I firmly believe that now. It’s gotten me here, why would I stop believing that?”
The 20-year old was patient when initially speaking to the media about his play, reiterating that he was watching film, grinding in the gym, trying to figure it out. The rookie eventually admitted “a little bit of frustration” had set in regarding the disappointing stretch to start his career.
“I’m missing now, but I’m not going to miss forever” Reddish told The Athletic in late November. “When it starts falling, I don’t want to hear nothing.”
Since Jan. 1, Reddish is shooting 38.2% from three on a fairly high volume (4.8 3PA), more than doubling the percentage he posted from beyond the arc in the aforementioned early season slump. The rookie is also shooting 46.2% inside the arc (52.7% in February), and 82.8% from the free throw line since Jan. 1, and remains the high quality NBA wing defender he has been since day one.
Per Cleaning the Glass, Reddish started his career 22-of-82 from the mid-range. CTG now has Reddish at 47-of-141 from the mid, meaning he’s 25 of his last 59 (42.3%), another respectable mark if sustained.
“Man, my jumper was broke today,” Reddish joked after the Hawks’ 111-107 win over the Dallas Mavericks on Feb. 22.
“But that happens,” he continued. “I feel like I’ve been getting so much better at it, been getting more comfortable and confident with it, just trying to get in a ton of extra reps. And that’s been paying off for me.”
“I’ve been watching a lot of film, seeing where I can improve on my finishing and even the shots I’m taking in general,” Reddish said on the evolution of his game. “I feel like I’m getting a lot better shots. Just getting locked in on the film with the coaches has really paid off... watching myself, watching my misses going to the rim, seeing my makes and seeing what I’m doing well as well as what I’m doing poorly. Just trying to improve on small things and continue to get better.”
Hawks head coach Lloyd Pierce also spoke on the improvements from Reddish after the Hawks’ win on Feb. 22:
“We set a couple goals for each guy at the All-Star break,” Pierce said. “One of our goals with Cam was to get four free throws per game, he had nine tonight, all in the first half. His mentality was tremendous. I love his attack mentality.”
Reddish averaged 3.2 free throw attempts per game in February. Looking back at the film, it is visible how confident and controlled he is going at the defense right now.
Following up with Pierce this week, here’s what the Hawks coach had to add on Reddish climbing towards the aforementioned goal:
“The number is kind of a made-up number, it’s just a mindset,” Pierce remarked. “If he’s out there 28 minutes, 26 minutes I think he’s averaging. How do we get him in the mindset where he’s attacking downhill, so he’s not just settling...it’s really just trying to change the mindset so he’s in attack mode all the time, and when he’s in attack mode he’s going to get to the free throw line.”
“Getting (drawing) fouls is going to help me open up my offensive game”, Reddish told Peachtree Hoops after a recent practice. “Getting to the free throw line... getting a few easy buckets, see a few go down. It’s an important piece.”
There is still plenty of progress to be made for the 20-year old, and he is aware he has only started the process of evolving himself into a consistent NBA player.
“My offense in general,” Reddish said when asked what part of his game he’s most excited to unlock next. “I feel like I’ve done a good job on the defensive end and there’s still a lot of progress to be made on that side of the floor, but my offense is what I’m looking forward to open up the most.”
Through February, Reddish’s true shooting percentage had increased in each month of his rookie season. A boost in efficiency in all areas has been a sign of Reddish’s progression, so while it’s still early (and the sample size of success is still relatively small), the rookie has begun to flash the high ceiling many saw for him.
Defensively, the wing continues to draw tough assignments night in and night out, seemingly up to the challenge each time. With 19 games remaining in Atlanta’s 2019-20 season, it will be exciting to watch Reddish continue unlocking his game.
“I’m definitely getting a lot more comfortable, a lot more confident,” Reddish assured. “Day in, day out, I’ve been in the gym working super-hard. Feeling a lot better while I’m on the floor. Getting used to my teammates, getting used to everything about the NBA.”
All statistics current as of Mar. 4.