The Atlanta Hawks were in a desperate need of defensive players this summer. With Trae Young and John Collins as primary options, and Kevin Huerter as a sharp-shooting wing, defense, or two-way players as a whole, were needed badly, as the Hawks could score the lights out of a game but come nowhere near that promising on the defensive end. Because of the draft night trade with the Dallas Mavericks one year ago, the Hawks secured two top-10 picks, with one being #4, and the other being #10. They used the first pick on De'Andre Hunter, a forward from Virginia who has already shown to be very polished on both ends, and is bound to have a very bright future. Then, at #10, the Hawks selected Cameron Reddish, a wing from the University of Duke.
Reddish's has had an interesting story full of twists and turns in his young career. He played in his high school career at the Westtown School in West Chester, PA, and immediately flourished. He was named to the McDonald's All-American Team among other accolades, and finished as the third-highest ranked player in the nation, falling behind R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson. These three joined forces at the University of Duke upon graduation, and were ready to shock the college basketball landscape. R.J. and Zion were as great as expected, but Reddish took a back seat and under-performed in his brief stint at Duke. Going from the primary option as one of the best players in the country to a third option on a great team is always a tough adjustment, and it showed in Duke's games. Reddish was primarily a point wing in high school, creating shots for himself and others, but was pushed to be a spot-up shooter in college. Nonetheless, the immense potential was still there, and it warranted a top-10 selection for Reddish in the following June's draft.
Once the preseason started up, more of the same struggles continued for Reddish. He was 0-14 to from three-point land to start the regular season, and missed 17 out of 18 three-point attempts to start this season. He was getting some open looks, but nothing was falling for him. Over the course of the first half of the season, his shooting percentages were abysmal. Through his first 39 games, basically the first half of the season, Reddish shot 34.5% from the field and 26.7% from three-point land, both very underwhelming statistics. His shooting was the selling piece for his draft stock, and fans were becoming nervous with his output, as he couldn't get it done on either side. Even the harsh word "bust" was being thrown around.
However, Reddish has looked like a completely different player since mid-January, and is really flaunting the two-way potential that scouts had been drooling over for years. Over his last 19 games, Reddish has averaged 13.7 PPG, and he's shot 43.6% from the court and 40.6% from the arc, which are both substantial improvements from the first split. He's also averaging 1.26 steals in this time-frame, exposing his impact on the defensive side of the ball as well. He looks a lot more comfortable on offense now that he's found a rhythm, and it's leading to Atlanta preferring to play him down the stretch for his defensive purposes. Here's one recent example, as Reddish locks up Goran Dragic, pokes the ball free, and hammers a dunk home to give the Hawks a late lead:
These are the types of plays that you love to see from a rising prospect, especially one who struggled earlier on in the season. It's a confidence booster. He knows he still has room to work with, as stated in this quote: "It’s still not falling at the rate I want it to. There’s still a lot of work to be put in, but I think I’m in a good spot.” Luckily for him, he is in a great spot. Atlanta may be one of the league's worst in 3PT%, but they are a young team full of shooters, and have the play-making ability with Trae Young to open up the floor for everyone else. And when Young isn't on the floor, Reddish is starting to become more comfortable at creating his own shot at the highest level. Recently, he's done a great job at attacking the basket; either on his own or off a screen; and driving to the rim or pulling up for a mid-range shot. On defense, his size and athleticism has proven to be key against other wing players, and because of his length he's able to switch onto big men down low.
Obviously there's still improvement to make on both ends, but Reddish has plenty of time to make more strides, and he knows that. “I believe I’m a phenomenal shooter, and I will be that.” is the direct quote he used when talking about he developments on offense, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. One of the biggest takeaways from Reddish's improvement? Since January 12, the Hawks are 9-10, climbing out of the basement and beating some playoff-eligible teams in the process. With Reddish, Hunter, Huerter, and stars like Trae Young and John Collins playing very good basketball and showing steps of growth, the Hawks are going to be a serious force in the Eastern Conference, just not yet. In the span of almost two months, Reddish has looked like a completely different player, and it's really encouraging to see how he's progressed in his first season as a pro.
Stats Courtesy of Basketball Reference or NBA Stats, unless otherwise noted.