Cam Reddish looks the part of a future NBA star.
NBA talent evaluators are trying to understand why the 3-man didn’t play like one at Duke.
Athletically, the kid from Norristown, Pa. has the goods. The small forward measured 6-foot-8, 208 pounds at the NBA Combine with a wingspan just shy of 7-foot-1. He was described by a noted draft analyst during a post-Combine 1-on-0 workout with other prospects as the “most naturally gifted player,” on the court that session.
For a Wizards roster that lacks small forwards after trading Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre during the season and upside talent beyond guards Bradley Beal and John Wall, Reddish is the type of a prospect they should consider with the ninth overall pick.
The weird thing is he might be there despite spending nearly the entire college basketball rated among the top three prospects in the 2019 NBA Draft class along with Duke teammates, Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett.
In a draft limited with standouts at the top, everyone wants to believe Reddish is worthy of a very early selection. Those that watched him regularly at Duke and are trained to focus on traits beyond highlight-reel moments a player with his physical tool can pull off were left wanting.
“He had an unproductive season,” ESPN draft analyst Jonathan Givony told NBC Sports Washington at this month’s Combine. “You can’t sugarcoat what he did.”
Reddish, 19, averaged 13.5 points at Duke. That ranked third behind Williamson and Barrett, who each dropped 22.6 per game. Reddish's other statistics were the issue.
This wasn’t a typical Duke squad loaded with perimeter shooting threats so Reddish’s 33.3 percent on 3-pointers wasn’t particularly jarring. That he shot only 39.4 percent on 2-point attempt “is one of the brightest red flags you’ll find,” Givony said.
Here’s another: Reddish’s performance efficiency rating (PER) of 13.6 didn’t just rank far behind Williamson (40.8) and Barrett (23.3). According to Givony, it’s lower than any college player projected to get drafted this year. Reddish also finished with more turnovers (96) than assists (70).
Yet, “his talent is off the charts,” Givony said.
Among the factors for scouts to examine is whether, as Givony believes, “playing off of Zion and RJ, the situation wasn’t the most functional situation there in terms of a basketball standpoint.”
None of the three were perimeter threats. Barrett attacks defenses off the dribble and Williamson’s interior presence had opponents packing the paint. Perhaps the lack of floor balance hurt Reddish’s shooting despite his solid form, but something was amiss.
“Wasn’t like an ideal set up, maybe. I don’t want to make excuses for [Cam],” Givony continued. “I still am intrigued by his talent level and at a certain point in the draft you just say for the upside you just have to take a swing because you don’t know what it could materialize into to.”
Reddish’s 77 percent clip on free throws offers a better representation of his shooting form than what he did from inside and outside the arc. He still finished fourth among ACC players in made 3-pointers last season. The size, length and athleticism combo offers strong hope defensively.
“I think I’ve improved a lot on my defense. I put an emphasis on that coming in because that was (a concern) some people said about me,” Reddish said in March at the East regionals in Washington.
Other concerns remain.
Multiple NBA scouts and sources told NBC Sports Washington there are questions over Reddish’s toughness and attitude. He disappeared at times late in games especially over the final month of the season. Duke’s third-leading scorer had eight points in 37 minutes in the East Region final loss to Michigan State, missing his only two 2-point attempts.
Yet in a draft where after Williamson, Murray State’s Ja Morant and Barrett the talent pool “gets average real quick” according to one scout, Reddish’s potential stands out.
He could go off the board fifth to the Cavaliers. The Hawks, owners of the eighth and 10th selections, are thought to be interested.
“A lot of guys had just average college careers and become stars in the NBA,” Givony said. “I think [Reddish is] someone that also has to be in the mix (if available at 9) for sure.”
Considering the several challenges facing the Wizards’ next general manager, including Wall’s uncertain recovery from a ruptured Achilles just as his supermax contract kicks in, Washington needs a hit with this pick.
We’ll see if Reddish is still on the board at 9. The current sense from front office types is Washington fans shouldn’t get their hopes up. Ultimately such potential comes down to whether those casting their roster ahead of the Wizards’ pick think the athletic 3-man is right for the part.
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