It's not every day that a productive, 22-year-old wing is available on the trade market, let alone who is six months removed from an explosive performance in a conference finals game. On Thursday, the New York Knicks reportedly acquired Cam Reddish from the team that beat them, convincingly, in last year's playoffs.
Reddish wasn't available for the Atlanta Hawks in that series, but returned from an Achilles injury to play in four games against the Milwaukee Bucks. In the final game of Atlanta's unexpectedly successful season, he came off the bench to shoot 6-for-7 from 3-point range, leading a comeback that ultimately came up short.
That barrage was a reminder that, oh yeah, the Hawks have him, too. Their front office, led by general manager Travis Schlenk, had hit on so many draft picks that they had a "good problem" -- they now had to decide how to distribute the money, minutes and touches.
Atlanta could have broken up its young core last summer to get ahead of this. Instead, it brought the band back, and that hasn't worked out, so it has pivoted. The Hawks have effectively chosen the flexibility offered by a protected first-round pick over the opportunity to remain in the Reddish business. He is eligible for a rookie contract extension this coming summer, and, if he doesn't sign it, he will be a restricted free agent a year later. Atlanta was not interested in giving him that extension, or at least the kind of extension that he would accept, according to ESPN.
The Knicks, by acquiring Reddish, could be setting themselves up to make difficult roster choices down the road, but they do not have the same long-term financial commitments that the Hawks do. In a more immediate sense, the trade gives New York some needed athleticism on the perimeter, and it reunites Reddish with college teammate R.J. Barrett.
Now, to the trade-grading:
- 2025 second-round pick (via Brooklyn)
- 2022 first-round pick (via Charlotte, protected 1-18 in 2022, 1-16 in 2023, 1-14 in 2024, 1-14 in 2015, then becomes 2026 and 2027 second-round picks)
Knicks trade grade: B+
There's an argument this should be an A-plus. If you believe there's a decent chance that Reddish turns into a star, then trading a "first-round pick" that could very well turn into two second-round picks for him is robbery. Knox wasn't a part of New York's plans, and the front office managed to keep all of the young players who are. Solomon Hill is out for the season and will occupy a roster spot, but all that means is the Knicks have to terminate Ryan Arcidiacano's 10-day contract early.
Reddish wanted to land on a team that could give him a bigger role, per ESPN, and in New York he should have an opportunity to earn more than the 23.4 minutes he was averaging in Atlanta. There is competition, however, and this trade raises several questions: Will Tom Thibodeau turn Evan Fournier into a sixth man? Will Fournier even be on the roster past the deadline? How much usage can Reddish even handle?
If you're a Reddish optimist, you can point to his scoring outbursts. It wasn't the conference finals, but Reddish went 8-for-13 from deep and scored 33 points against the Chicago Bulls a couple of days after Christmas. Five days before that, he dropped 34 in 42 minutes against the Orlando Magic. Reddish hasn't done this sort of thing consistently, but it would be crazy to expect him to, given all the talent around him and the fact that Trae Young ran a zillion pick-and-rolls every game.
This season, 63 percent of Reddish's baskets have been assisted, per Cleaning The Glass. That is the same percentage as Taj Gibson, and it is the lowest percentage of Reddish's three-year career. If you're a Reddish skeptic, you can argue that there are good reasons for this: He's shooting 28.3 percent on pull-up 3s and 30.2 percent on pull-up 2s, per NBA.com, and he's shooting 30 percent from midrange and 57 percent at the rim, per CTG.
These numbers aren't encouraging for Reddish's prospects as a creator, but they aren't damning, either. He's only a year younger than Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride, his new rookie teammates, and he deserves time to figure out who he is as an NBA player. If his 22.3 percent usage rate stays the same or increases only slightly, he can still be a wildly valuable wing, provided that he brings consistent intensity on defense and especially if he continues to make 41.9 percent of his catch-and-shoot 3s. To be determined on both of those, though.
The tricky part is that, before Reddish has figured out who he is as an NBA player, a team has to make a decision about paying him something like $15-20 million per season for four years. The Hawks have already punted on that.
New York is betting that it can retain Reddish at a price that makes sense. Him developing into a perennial All-Star would be the best possible outcome, but that is hardly required for this to pay off. For the last year or so, Atlanta has been seen as a potential destination for disgruntled superstars, given its collection of young talent. The Knicks are in that game, too, and Reddish gives them someone else they can offer (or build with, if they must trade Barrett).
In a more immediate sense, New York just acquired a rotation player for a guy who was only seeing the floor in garbage time. The Knicks have more firepower, more athleticism and more versatility than they did before this trade, and Thibodeau will demand the best out of him on defense. At 21-21, fighting for a spot in the play-in, this could turn out to be the boost they needed.
Hawks trade grade: B-
This really should be an incomplete. In the short term, it has freed up a roster spot, created a $1.7 million trade exception and gained both flexibility and clarity. Ultimately, though, this will be judged by what Atlanta does next.
Schlenk's front office wants to "make improvements" to the roster before the deadline, according to ESPN, and believes that this protected Hornets pick will be of use in that respect. If the Hawks pull off a blockbuster and Jaylen Brown or Ben Simmons or Bradley Beal helps them get back to the conference finals, everybody will call Schlenk a genius. If they stand pat and Reddish goes nuts in New York, everybody will call him an idiot.
This move does not, however, need to lead directly to another big one before the Feb. 10 trade deadline. It just needs to lead to something, eventually. And that something needs to be better than simply trying to work out a contract extension this summer.
If the Hawks had determined that they were not going to extend Reddish, then it made sense to shop him. Whether it made sense to take this offer is debatable, though. Everybody in the league wants athletic wings, and everybody in the league specifically wants 6-foot-8 wings who have shown they can defend different types of players and make 3-pointers. If you trade somebody like that before his rookie contract is up, you expect a haul.
The reasons they didn't get a haul are also some of the reasons they weren't excited about an extension: Reddish's defense has dropped off this season, and he's never been an efficient offensive player, even in a low-usage role. There is plenty of time for him to grow on both ends, but there is risk in paying him like more than a complementary player.
Full disclosure: My first instinct was to give Atlanta a C+ simply because, based on Reddish's upside, I expected there would be a bigger market for him. That it accepted this deal, however, suggests there is not.