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Should the Knicks really trade Cam Reddish?

The new Cam Reddish is great. That complicates things.

Milwaukee Bucks v New York Knicks Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

Despite playing just 21.9 minutes and averaging 8.4 PPG, Cam Reddish has been one of the most talked about Knicks ever since he arrived in the Big Apple earlier this year. He is one of the NBA’s most discussed non-starters, and for good reason. Reddish, one of the league’s great mysteries, has all the talents and God-given gifts needed to not only succeed but be a real star in today’s NBA.

Reddish is a 6’8” wing who possesses a rare and highly sought-after blend of shot-making, off-the-dribble creativity, fluidity, athleticism, wing span, and defensive instincts. Unfortunately, many of these talents have come only in spurts.

One minute, Reddish would hit a step back three, drive past defenders, and finish a reverse layup off a flawlessly executed Euro step while locking up the opposing team’s best perimeter player. The next minute, he would lose his man on a backdoor cut and then dribble into a double team, only to force up a contested off-balance shot.

Now, it isn’t all his fault. When he does find a bit of a rhythm, Reddish seems prone to injuries that disrupt it. The fourth-year wing has managed to play in only 153 games and has only once appeared in more than 49 games in a season. And, truth be told, both Atlanta and New York fans have had to come to terms with the fact that this might be what the Cam Reddish Experience is: Inconsistent play with flashes of potential, with a sprinkling of injuries.

Things seem to have changed this season, however. The injuries remain part of the equation unfortunately, but Reddish, after a full off-season and training camp with the Knicks, has reinvented himself in a way that few foresaw.

First, there’s the offensive change in his game. While Reddish is still far from the scoring threat he can be, he’s become way more efficient. After averaging 13.3 field goal attempts and 6.3 threes per 36 minutes, Reddish is now averaging just 11.2 FGA and 4.6 threes per 36. He has also upped his field goal percentage to a career-high 44.9%, which is much greater than his career field goal percentage of 38.7%.

The fourth-year wing has also done a great job of not trying to do too much and playing off his teammates. A career-high 75% of Reddish’s two-pointers have been assisted thanks to his newly found commitment to cutting without the ball more; and the 88.2% of three-pointers that he’s been assisted on is the second-highest percentage of his career. Further pointing to the acceptance of his new role is the fact that he currently averages career lows in usage rate, turnover percentage, and percentage of shots in the midrange. Plus, Reddish is doing this while posting career highs in points per shot attempt, effective FG%, percentage of his shots at the rim, and FG% at the rim.

Reddish can still get stuck trying to make something out of nothing and that’s where he has struggled, evidenced by an abysmal 16.7 EFG% when he holds the ball for more than six seconds. The encouraging side is, he has a 55.3% EFG% when he has the ball for less than two seconds, and 53.7% on touches that are between two and six seconds. This isn’t to say that Reddish will never become a go-to isolation-type of guy or a primary ball-handler, but it’s certainly been nice to see him progress and help the team—and himself—be more efficient.

Then there’s his defense, which has developed just as impressively as his offense. With more time and tutelage under Tom Thibodeau, Reddish has distinguished himself as one of the best defenders on a Knicks team that has struggled to stop teams all season long. While Quentin Grimes was out, Reddish proved to be consistently engaged and was often asked to guard the opponent’s best players. For the most part, he did an admirable job.

While his improved defensive contributions don’t necessarily show up on the stat sheet, there’s a strong argument to be made that his commitment on this end paved the way for everything else. With Grimes missing a chunk of time to start the season, Thibodeau—even if it wasn’t by choice—went to Reddish early and often for his defense. Time after time, the former Blue Devil answered the call. That bought him more playing time and trust from his coach, which led to more opportunities and more leeway on the offensive end as well.

Reddish is a curious case because Reddish will become a restricted free agent next summer. That means he can sign an offer sheet with another team, which the Knicks can either match or let him walk for nothing. This begs the question: What do the Knicks want and/or think of him? It’s tough to answer that after just a quarter of a season, but it’s something the front office will have to decide on eventually.

While Reddish’s developments have been one of the few bright spots of this season, there’s a possibility that he’s played himself into a contract tier that the Knicks front office deems prohibitive. They will have to ask themselves if he deserves further investment (the answer should be yes, but who knows what Leon says), and if they consider what he has done this season to be repeatable.

What we can say, though, is that recent signs have not been great. After averaging 23.3 minutes per game (which is still lower than it probably should be) through the first 16 games, Reddish, since coming back from a minor injury, is averaging just 16.2 MPG. Furthering the concerns about his future here is the fact that he was active but received a DNP-CD (did not play- coach’s decision) in Sunday’s win over the Cavaliers and is reportedly out of the rotation now.

We cannot know if Reddish is happy—or at least okay—with his role and future in New York. Will he continue to say the right things while playing third, and sometimes fourth, or even fifth, wheel to Randle, Brunson, Barrett, and co., and playing for a coach who has been very inconsistent with his usage of him? There are still plenty of times, almost on a game-by-game basis, where Reddish is seen being frustrated by not getting the ball (like the clip below). Let’s be honest, nobody likes having an inconsistent role, let alone being out of the rotation.

The latest complication is that Obi Toppin will undergo an MRI to check on a knee injury sustained in the last game. With Toppin potentially out, Cam will likely be slid back into Thibodeau’s preferred nine-man rotation. Will he accept the opportunity with enthusiasm?

So far, Cam has said the right things to the press. It can’t be easy for a player, especially one of his confidence, to enter the league as a much-hyped lottery pick, and then have your minutes and shot attempts steadily decline.

Certainly, there’s a chance that Reddish signs an offer sheet elsewhere, choosing an opportunity to prove himself with a bigger role. There’s a chance, too, that Reddish fully buys into whatever direction the Knicks take and commits to playing alongside his college friend and teammate, RJ Barrett. There is ample evidence to suggest that what Reddish has done is sustainable, not to mention that he still has the potential that people love talking about. The hope is that he and the Knicks front office can continue to work together. Whatever the team does about the Reddish situation, both his play on the court and the looming free agency situation will be something Knicks fans should keep a close eye on.