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

2 Comments

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.

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.

Kevin Durant reverses course on championship: ‘Every day I woke up, I just felt so good about myself, so good about life’

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

Following his first NBA title, Kevin Durant said, “After winning that championship (last season), I learned that much hadn’t changed. I thought it would fill a certain [void]. It didn’t.”

How does Durant now reflect on that time with the Warriors?

Durant, via J.R. Moehringer of the Wall Street Journal:

“It’s very rare in our lives when we envision and picture something and it comes together the perfect way you envision it. [Winning a title] was the only time in my life that happened, and that summer was the most exhilarating time. Every day I woke up I just felt so good about myself, so good about life.… That was a defining moment in my life—not just my basketball life.”

It’s difficult to reconcile those two quotes. I’d love to hear Durant eventually explain.

I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t relish the championship aftermath as much he initially expected but, looking back, now realizes how much he actually enjoyed it. The end of his time with Golden State wasn’t totally pleasant. That might have provided perspective on the better times. Or maybe the difference is simply his mood on the day of each interview.

Durant is continuing to try to find himself while in the public eye. That isn’t easy, and it’ll lead to contradictions like this along the way. I appreciate his openness, even when he’s still difficult to understand.

Jerry Colangelo: Team USA would’ve won FIBA World Cup if not for injuries

Yifan Ding/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Team USA finished seventh in the 2019 FIBA World Cup – the Americans’ worst-ever finish in a major tournament.

Why did the U.S. fare so poorly?

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo had sharp words for the many stars who withdrew. But that’s not his only explanation.

Kyle Kuzma suffered an ankle injury that kept him off the roster. Jayson Tatum missed the final six games with his own ankle injury. Marcus Smart was banged up and missed time throughout the event.

Colangelo, via Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

“I believe that if we didn’t have those injuries, we would have won,” said Colangelo. “The injuries were just too much to absorb.”

Maybe.

Those players – especially Tatum and Smart, who occupied a roster spots – would’ve helped. But even with those two, the Americans were vulnerable. Australia beat them in an exhibition, and Turkey nearly upset them in the first round. France and Serbia clearly outplayed them in the knockout phase. Team USA just lacked its usual talent.

Perhaps more top Americans will play in the 2020 Olympics. That will make the biggest difference.

If USA Basketball had attracted more stars for the World Cup, it likely could’ve withstood a few injuries. This roster allowed little margin for error.

Jarrett Culver enlivens Timberwolves’ otherwise-quiet offseason

Brian Babineau/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Timberwolves are the only team with two max-salary players under age 29. Heck, they’re the only team with two max-salary players under age 25.

But Minnesota isn’t set.

Far from it.

Though Karl-Anthony Towns (23) is already a star and sometimes looks like a budding superstar, Andrew Wiggins (24) has stagnated on his max extension. Add expensive contracts for Jeff Teague and Gorgui Dieng, and the Timberwolves have limited cap flexibility. With veterans too good to allow deep tanking, Minnesota also has limited means to upgrade through the draft.

New Timberwolves president Gersson Rosas was likely always bound to limit his impact this summer. Minnesota faced few clear pressing decisions. Any big moves would start the clock toward Rosas getting evaluated on his prestigious job. In one of his main decisions, Rosas retained head coach Ryan Saunders, an ownership favorite.

Yet, in this environment, Rosas still found a simple way to add a potential long-term difference maker.

The Timberwolves entered the draft with the No. 11 pick – right after a near-consensus top 10 would’ve been off the board. They left the draft with No. 6 pick Jarrett Culver.

All it took to trade up with the Suns was Dario Saric, who would’ve helped Minnesota this season but probably not enough to achieve meaningful success. He’ll become a free agent next summer and is in line for a raise the Timberwolves might not wanted to give.

Culver is not a lock to flourish in the NBA. But Minnesota had no business adding a prospect with so much potential. This was a coup.

Otherwise, the Timberwolves remained predictably quiet, tinkering on the fringe of the rotation. They added Jake Layman (three years, $11,283,255) in a sign-and-trade with the Trail Blazers. They took Shabazz Napier and Treveon Graham off the hands of the hard-capped Warriors, getting cash for their trouble. They signed Noah Vonleh (one year, $2 million) and Jordan Bell (one year, minimum). They claimed Tyrone Wallace off waivers.

With their own free agents getting bigger offers, Minnesota didn’t match Tyus Jones‘ offer sheet with the Grizzlies (three years, $26,451,429) and watched Derrick Rose walk to the Pistons (two years, $15 million). For where the Timberwolves are, the far-cheaper Napier should handle backup point guard just fine.

Minnesota is methodically gaining flexibility. Teague’s contract expires next summer, Dieng’s the summer after that. The big question is how to handle Wiggins, but that will wait.

With Towns locked in the next five years, Rosas has plenty of runway before he must take off. Nabbing Culver was a heck of a way to accelerate from the gate.

Offseason grade: B-

Report: Iman Shumpert rejects offer from Rockets, who’ll have several familiar names in minicamp

Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

Iman Shumpert is the best free agent available.

Why hasn’t he signed yet? Apparently because he spent the offseason negotiating with the Rockets, but those talks haven’t produced a deal.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Kelly Iko of The Athletic:

Alykhan Bijani of The Athletic:

I wonder whether Houston tried to sign Shumpert to a contract similar to Nene’s, creating another trade chip. The Rockets are close to the luxury tax and probably wouldn’t guarantee Shumpert much. It doesn’t take months to negotiate a simple minimum contract.

Shumpert (29) is a credible wing in a league starving for them. He played well for the Kings last season before getting traded to Houston, where he struggled. Other teams should be interested.

The Rockets have just nine players with guaranteed salaries. There’s plenty of room for some of these past-their-prime veterans to make the regular-season roster. It might mostly depend on which of Terrence Jones (27), Nick Young (34), Luc Mbah a Moute (33), Corey Brewer (33), Raymond Felton (35) and Thabo Sefolosha (35) are in the best shape at this stage.