2019 NBA Draft Prospect Profile: Cam Reddish and the importance of evaluating context

Rob Dauster
NBC Sports

Over the course of the next two weeks, as the 2019 NBA Draft draws closer and closer, we at Pro Basketball Talk will be taking deep dives into some of the best and most intriguing prospects that will be making their way to the NBA.

Today, we are looking at Cam Reddish.

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Previous draft profiles:

Context matters in every aspect of life, and that includes when evaluating prospects for the NBA.

In this year’s draft, there is no player where context matters more than with Cam Reddish.

Heading into the season, there were people that believed that Reddish was the prospect with the highest ceiling in the Class of 2018, and it’s not all that difficult to see why. Reddish looks exactly like everything that you would want out of a big wing in the modern NBA. He’s 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan. His shooting stroke is effortless and clean. He spent the majority of his high school and AAU career playing on the ball as a lead guard, and it shows when he’s allowed to operate in isolation or when running ball-screens. His mechanics, his footwork, his release, they are all polished, whether he’s catching-and-shooting or pulling up off the dribble. He’s smooth and fairly athletic, and he has a frame that looks like it can be developed in an NBA strength and conditioning program.

Watch him at his best and it’s not hard to see why names like Paul George and Jayson Tatum get invoked when talking about him:

The upside is there.

The problem is the productivity never consistently matched his potential. Reddish shot just 33 percent from beyond the arc for Duke and under 40 percent from two-point range. His PER was a dreadful 13.8. Smaller defenders were able to climb up under him and take him completely out of rhythm. For a guy that spent so long playing as a point guard, it’s concerning that his assist rate (10.7) was half his turnover rate (20.7) with Duke. His effort level was never consistent; one of the criticisms of Reddish dating back to his high school days is that he lacks focus, that he doesn’t care enough, and he certainly did not shake that reputation while playing for Duke. He seemed to lack confidence, something that wasn’t helped by the fact that teams quickly figured out that he lacked the strength and toughness to consistently handle the physicality at that level of basketball. Concerns about toughness certainly weren’t helped when he mysteriously sat out Duke’s Sweet 16 matchup with Virginia Tech.

It’s also not hard to see why he also gets compared to the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Rudy Gay.

This is where we really need to consider the context surrounding his one season at Duke.

For starters, Reddish has always been the star with the ball in his hands at every level of basketball that he has played. He was identified very early on as a future superstar, having been invited to participate in the Team USA Junior National Team minicamp in 2014, before he turned 15 years old. He’s had every team that he has played one more or less built around him since then. Even when playing for an absolutely loaded Westtown team, his coach put Reddish at the point in order to keep the ball in his hands as much as possible.

That was never going to be the case at Duke, where R.J. Barrett dominated Duke’s touches and Zion Williamson dominated the touches that didn’t go to Barrett. Reddish was asked to essentially be a floor-spacer, someone out there to punish defenses that overhelp on Duke’s Big Two. It’s something that he had never done before in his basketball career, and to his credit, he never publicly complained about it. We never so much as heard about “sources close to Reddish” being upset about what he was asked to do or being worried about his role hurting his draft stock. He accepted his role and tried to do his job.

And even that wasn’t the best situation.

Reddish was literally the only player on that roster that opponents had to worry about from the perimeter. Defensive game-plans centered around staying connected to Reddish while completely ignoring the likes of Tre Jones, Jordan Goldwire and Jack White.

How much of a role did that play in Reddish’s three-point shooting struggles this year?

And how much did the lack of spacing offensively hinder Reddish’s ability to finish around the rim?

Because that is the other major concern with his game. He didn’t just struggle as a three-point shooter. He shot under 40 percent from two-point range, which is tragically low for someone with his physical tools. Was this the result of a total lack of space in the paint? Or was this a by-product of some of Reddish’s lacking physical tools? Is he functionally athletic enough to finish around the rim at the NBA level? Will he ever learn how to avoid charges? Is he strong enough to handle physicality in the paint?

And all of that leads us to the biggest question that NBA franchises are going to have to ask themselves in regards to Reddish: Is he wired to be a pro? Is he a “winner”? Does he have that killer instinct?

Was his disappointing one-and-done season a result of a player that accepted but struggled dealing with the role of being a good teammate, or is he a player who will build a career out of convincing teams that they will finally be the ones to get his on-court output to match his on-paper potential?

Because you can watch viral clips like this to see just how naturally gifted he really is:


Then go back and actually watch the film and see just how rare it was to see him do something like this during a game.

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