Knicks’ exchange for Cam Reddish was a low-risk, high-reward move, but it will be harder to keep it in the long run.

Knicks' exchange for Cam Reddish was a low-risk, high-reward move, but it will be harder to keep it in the long run.

In that way, the Knicks came up aces here, hence the knee-jerk approval. Knicks fans aren’t used to their franchise making trades for 22-year-old lottery picks with All-Star upside. They’re used to trading for guys like Dennis Smith and Moe Harkless and Enes Kanter and Doug McDermott and Lou Amundson and Quincy Acy and shell-of-his-former-self Derrick Rose. 

Story Highlights:

  • In a vacuum, with Knox already regarded as a castoff, the deal essentially becomes Reddish for a future draft pick that is going to be in the latter half of the first round or the second round. Through that lens, Reddish is a pretty good bet to wind up a better player than whoever ends up filling that draft slot. 

  • Reddish will help this team right away. 

And he could help in the future a lot more. 

Hawks president Travis Schlenk is looking to get busy before this year’s trade deadline, and this move would seem to suggest that he believes he can do more in the market with a future draft pick than Reddish. That’s probably not because teams aren’t intrigued by Reddish the player; it’s because the decision of whether to extend Reddish long-term is a dicey one. The Hawks just took that decision off their plate. And the Knicks inherited it. 

But could is the operative term here. Reddish is eligible for a rookie extension this summer, and if he doesn’t sign it, he becomes a restricted free agent in 2023. That’s a big part of the reason the Hawks made this deal. Yes, they have a stable of young wings and Reddish’s departure makes it less crowded, but this is more about leverage in another deal to come. 

As mentioned, Reddish will likely end up a better player than the future player that draft pick becomes. You don’t know that for sure. A lot of gems are found in the latter half of the first round and even the second round. But Reddish is the smarter bet. Where it gets difficult is deciding between a lesser player on a rookie contract or Reddish, a better player, on, say, a $60 or $70 million contract, or even more if he plays relatively well over this next year-and-a-half and some desperate suitor makes an aggressive offer. 

I still say that’s another problem for another day. Right now, the Knicks got a guy with legit upside without giving up all that much. They essentially have Reddish on a year-and-a-half tryout. They are not tied to signing him long term. It’s fair to question whether Cam Reddish the idea is clouding our judgment of Cam Reddish the actual player. He’s never come close to being the player that multiple scouts, at the time, told me was the most talented player in a 2019 draft class that included Zion Williamson and Ja Morant. 

Smart, experienced people likened Reddish’s two-way length, shooting and easy athleticism to Paul George, and to me, it’s already safe to say that was an overestimation. But that narrative lingers. If you don’t watch the Hawks or Reddish play very much, you can still allow yourself to buy into that kind of upside.  But Reddish doesn’t have to be Paul George, a legit MVP-level player for portions of his career, to be an All-Star — which, to me, is still a career outcome in legitimate play. Reddish has games that demand your attention. Two days after Christmas, he sunk eight 3-pointers for 33 points against the Bulls. A week before that he put six 3-pointers and 34 on the Magic. We all remember his 21 points and six 3-pointers in Game 6 of last year’s Eastern Conference finals after he returned earlier in the series from an Achilles injury. 

In that moment, Reddish looked like a bonafide postseason difference maker. He hasn’t been close to that kind of player on any kind of consistent basis, but he was only playing 23 minutes per game in Atlanta. He’ll likely get a bigger role in New York, and he should get more opportunities to create for himself. There is no Trae Young on the Knicks.  Reddish creating for himself might not be a great thing. His isolation numbers are 8th-percentile awful, per Synergy, but we’re talking about an insignificantly small sample. HIs pull-up percentages leave plenty to be desired. He’s a decent pick-and-roll initiator. He’s making 37 percent of his 3-pointers, per Cleaning the Glass. There’s some stuff to like and still a lot of stuff to dream on, and the Knicks can now take some time to evaluate whether these Reddish dreams can turn into reality. 

It will ultimately lead to a tough contractual call. But that’s down the road. For now, this was a low-risk, high-reward move for a team that doesn’t have much recent history of such transactions. I’ll take that every time. 

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