The Knicks have been playing some of their best basketball of the season of late. Prior to Monday’s home loss to the Milwaukee Bucks, they had won 12 of their last 17 games.
New York has done so after shortening their rotation to maximize the defensive and young talent on the floor at any given time.
One of the players who was benched in the midst of these changes was Cam Reddish. Until that point, he had been one of New York’s most effective complementary pieces. And recently, even with injuries to RJ Barrett and Jalen Brunson, head coach Tom Thibodeau turned to veteran Evan Fournier to fill some of those minutes instead of Reddish.
Despite the team’s successes without him, it's time Reddish sees the court again. To understand why, let’s back things up a bit.
Reddish is a supremely talented former lottery pick, who has been plagued by inconsistency in his first two NBA seasons. For every night he looked like a future star, there were two he looked lost.
Last year, New York traded Kevin Knox and a first-round pick for Reddish, in hopes of cashing in on some of that potential and revitalizing his career. However there wasn’t room for him in the rotation, and even when injuries opened up minutes, Reddish ended up getting hurt himself before he could settle into a groove.
This was supposed to be Reddish’s do-or-die season.
However, hopes were dim after a horrid showing during preseason play. Reddish was able to get off to a strong start to the regular season, though, dropping 22-points in the season opener against the Grizzlies.
He’d appear in 20 of New York’s first 23 games, rarely producing that much from a scoring standpoint but still contributing. While his defensive engagement and IQ could falter at times, when he was locked in, he was extremely effective against multiple positions.
Offensively, he did a better job of picking his spots as the season went on, settling for fewer bad looks. He looked comfortable spotting up from three and made a living as a cutter and finisher.
Reddish was easily able to separate himself from the Knicks’ roster thanks to his athleticism and skillset. They had dependable options on the wings and and at the power forward position, but only Reddish could naturally flow and defend between the two.
The most valuable player in today’s NBA is the multi-faceted big-bodied wing, and Reddish was that for New York. On top of that, few Knicks have that dynamic athleticism Reddish does, and he was one of the most switchable members on the roster.
Despite that, he wouldn’t last in the rotation.
At one point, he put together five consecutive double-digit scoring nights. However, three poor outings in a row and the return of a healthy Quentin Grimes resulted in his minutes quickly being diminished all the way down to zero.
Thibodeau has yet to play Reddish again in over a month.
Perhaps his play was slipping as the team hit its low point so far this season. His overall statistics weren’t overly convincing: 13.8 points per-36 minutes on 55 percent shooting from two, 30 percent shooting from three, and scant free throw attempts.
But still, why Fournier is able to contribute and not Reddish is confounding, especially when you consider the latter’s superior defense.
There could be a multitude of reasons unknown to the public, like practice participation or scheme memorization issues, but they would purely be conjecture until reported.
Given what we do know, Reddish deserves another shot. Not only is he a 23-year-old prospect you gave up assets for, but at one point this season he was one of the most effective two-way players on the roster. Why can’t that be true again?
There’s a real need for Reddish on this team too.
With Barrett still out with a finger injury, the Knicks only have one defensive-wing in Grimes before they need to slide their guards up a position. They’re getting outscored with Fournier on the court, and whenever he plays alongside Obi Toppin, the team defense only gets worse.
The bench lineups with Immanuel Quickley serving as the lone creator also suffer offensively. It’s unclear how much Reddish would assist there, but Fournier has shot just 36.4 percent from the field and 26.1 percent from three since his return. You have to figure it can’t be much worse.
If this is all moot, and Reddish is destined to be traded by February, at least playing him could build up his value. As of right now, he’s unlikely to net the Knicks anything of worth and having him sit on the pine won’t help.
In recent weeks the Knicks finally figured out what their team is, would Reddish really take away from it?