It’s not everyday that a productive 22-year-old wing is commercially available, let alone six months from an explosive performance in a conference finals game. On Thursday, the New York Knicks reportedly acquired Cam Reddish from the team that convincingly beat them in last year’s playoffs.
Reddish was not available for the Atlanta Hawks in that series, but returned from an Achilles injury to play four games against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the last game of Atlanta’s surprisingly successful season, he came off the bench to shoot 6v7 with 3 points, leading a comeback that was ultimately short.
This barrage reminded me that, oh yeah, the Hawks have it too. Their front office, headed by general manager Travis Schlenk, had found so many draft picks that they had a “good problem” – they now had to decide how to distribute the money, minutes and touches.
Atlanta could have smashed its young core last summer to get ahead of that. Instead, it brought the group back, and it didn’t work, so it pivoted. The Hawks effectively chose the flexibility offered by a protected first-round pick over the opportunity to stay in the reddish company. He’s eligible for a rookie contract extension this summer and, if he doesn’t sign it, he’ll be a restricted free agent a year later. Atlanta was not interested in giving him that extension, or at least the type of extension he would take, according to ESPN.
The Knicks, by acquiring Reddish, could prepare for some tough roster choices going forward, but they don’t have the same long-term financial commitments as the Hawks. In a more immediate sense, the trade gives New York City some needed athleticism on the perimeter, and he reunites Reddish with his varsity teammate RJ Barrett.
Now let’s move on to the commercial classification:
The Knicks receive:
- Second round pick in 2025 (via Brooklyn)
- First-round pick in 2022 (via Charlotte, protected 1-18 in 2022, 1-16 in 2023, 1-14 in 2024, 1-14 in 2015, then become second-round picks in 2026 and 2027)
Knicks Commercial Rank: B +
There is an argument that it should be an A-plus. If you think there is a good chance that Reddish will become a star, then trading a “first round pick” that could very well turn into two second round picks for him is a steal. Knox was not a part of New York’s plans and the front office has managed to keep all of the young players who do. Solomon Hill is out for the season and will take a spot on the roster, but all that means is that the Knicks need to terminate Ryan Arcidiacano’s 10-day contract early.
Reddish wanted to land in a team that could give him a bigger role, by ESPN, and in New York, he should have the opportunity to win more than the 23.4 minutes he averaged in Atlanta. However, there is competition and this profession raises several questions: will Tom Thibodeau make Evan Fournier a sixth man? Will Fournier even be on the list after the deadline? What use can Reddish even handle?
If you are a reddish optimist, you can report his rating outbursts. It wasn’t the conference final, but Reddish moved up to 8-on-13 deep and scored 33 points against the Chicago Bulls days after Christmas. Five days earlier, he had lost 34 minutes in 42 minutes against the Orlando Magic. Reddish hasn’t done this sort of thing consistently, but it would be crazy to expect him to, given all the talent around him and the fact that Trae Young has led a zillion of pick-and-roll at every game.
This season, 63 percent of Reddish’s baskets have been helped, according to Cleaning The Glass. This is the same percentage as Taj Gibson, and it is the the lowest percentage of Reddish’s three-year career. If you’re a reddish skeptic, you can argue that there are good reasons for this: He shoots 28.3 percent on 3-pull-ups and 30.2 percent on 2-pull-ups, according to NBA.com, and it pulls 30 percent from the midrange and 57 percent at the rim, per CTG.
These numbers aren’t encouraging for Reddish’s prospects as a creator, but they aren’t overwhelming either. He’s only a year younger than his new rookie teammates Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride, and he deserves time to find out who he is as an NBA player. If his use rate of 22.3% stays the same or increases only slightly, he can still be an extremely valuable wing, provided he brings a constant intensity in defense and especially if he continues to do 41 , 9% of his catch-and-shoot 3s. To be determined on both, however.
The tricky part is that before Reddish realizes who he is as an NBA player, a team has to make the decision to pay him something like $ 15-20 million a season for four years. The Hawks have kicked this before.
New York is betting it can keep the reddish brown at a price that makes sense. His development into a lasting All-Star would be the best possible result, but that hardly needs to be done for it to bear fruit. For about a year now, Atlanta has been seen as a potential destination for disgruntled superstars, given its collection of young talent. The Knicks are in this game as well, and Reddish gives them someone else they can gift (or build with, if they have to trade Barrett).
In a more immediate sense, New York just acquired a spinning player for a guy who only saw the ground during garbage time. The Knicks have more firepower, more athleticism and more versatility than before in this profession, and Thibodeau will demand the best of him on defense. At 21-21, battling for a berth in the play-in, this could prove to be the boost they needed.
Hawks Commercial Category: B-
It really should be incomplete. In the short term, it cleared a spot on the list, created a $ 1.7 million trade exception, and gained both flexibility and clarity. Ultimately, however, that will be judged by what Atlanta does next.
Schlenk’s front office is keen to “make improvements” to the roster before the deadline, ESPN said, and believes the Hornets’ protected pick will help in that regard. If the Hawks pull off a blockbuster and Jaylen Brown or Ben Simmons or Bradley Beal help them get back to the conference finals, everyone will call Schlenk a genius. If they stand up and Reddish goes mad in New York City, everyone will call him an idiot.
This move doesn’t need to lead directly to another big one before the February 10 trade deadline, however. It just has to lead to something, eventually. And that something has to be better than just trying to find a contract extension this summer.
If the Hawks had determined they weren’t going to spread the Reddish, then it made sense to shop it. If it made sense to take this offer is questionable, however. Everyone in the league wants athletic wings, and everyone in the league specifically wants 6-foot-8 wings that have shown they can defend different types of players and score 3 points. If you trade someone like this before their rookie contract ends, you’d expect some loot.
The reasons they didn’t get a goal are also some of the reasons they weren’t excited about an overtime: Reddish’s defense has plummeted this season, and he’s never been an effective offensive player, even in a low usage role. He has plenty of time to grow up on both sides, but there is a risk in paying him off as more than a complementary player.
Full Disclosure: My first instinct was to give Atlanta a C + simply because, based on Reddish’s rise, I expected there to be a bigger market for it. That he accepted that deal, however, suggests there isn’t one.