For regular readers of this weekly, you’ve probably noticed the recent references to “prototypical small forward” and Portland Trail Blazers tight end Cam Reddish.
Admittedly, this opinion is based solely on the “eye test” through his first few games as a Blazer and the few times I’ve seen him take the floor for Atlanta Hawks and New York Knicks.
So I decided to dig a little deeper, take a closer look at the numbers and the difficult NBA path that went through the first three and a half years of my career.
Chosen 10 by Hawks In 2019, Reddish was one of those rare mid-lottery players who played third banana in college, behind Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett.
Coming out of Duke, consistency and rebounding were some of the bigger question marks hanging over him. But there was clearly enough, through his potential, instincts, impressive measures and shooting – current Blazers assistant general manager Mike Schmitz was initially involved.
After coming to the NBA, it didn’t take long for Reddish to contribute, playing consistently for the Georgia franchise. In 118 games (62 starts), he averaged 11.1 points on 33 percent three-point shooting, 3.4 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.1 steals in 26 minutes.
Clear, The Knicks agreed, given that they gave up first-rounder and future Reddish teammate Kevin Knox II — another former lottery pick — for his services in January 2022. One might assume that giving up serious assets to reunite Reddish and Barrett meant he would be a key part of the Manhattan franchise’s plans.
Not so much. In just over a calendar year, Reddish is gone — I’m not sure what happened there, but clearly he and coach Tom Thibodeau weren’t on the same page.
Unfortunately for New York, they gave up the first again, this time to terminate Reddish’s contract, while getting a more reliable forward in Josh Hart.
But whatever has happened so far, Reddish is still only 23, the same as Anfernee Simons, and has shown a glimmer of promise that got him a top-10 pick once.
So what makes Reddish the theoretical modern prototype small forward?
Perhaps my initial excitement over Reddish’s arrival had some bearing on recent Blazers history. The franchise hasn’t had a player perfectly suited for the position since Nicolas Batum was sent to the Charlotte Hornets for Gerald Henderson and Noah Vonleh in June 2015.
Since then, no wing has been able to expertly fill the void. Maurice Harkless, Kent Bazemore, Gary Trent Jr. and Norman Powell were given the confidence to play in the big wing position. Some proved better than others, but all had clear shortcomings when it came to lining up as a modern top three.
Reddish is 6’8 and carries a decent build — Basketball Reference might say he’s 217 lbs, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that number has gone up since the last weigh-in.
Through 12 games as a Blazer, we’ve seen flashes of his ability on both sides of the ball — he’s a decent defender, he can handle the ball, he can move without it, he can shoot and he has the ability to get down.
Reddish has an athleticism that puts him in advantageous positions on both sides of the ball, especially in dribble opportunities. He can pull up, shoot off the dribble, catch and shoot, and also looks comfortable finishing in transition.
That big frame allows him to push his way to the rim. With a solid handle, he is able to protect the ball most of the time. His spacing has also helped, as evidenced by his nearly 40 percent three-point shooting during his tenure in Portland. As far as the mid-range goes, Reddish plays to his strengths, hitting almost all of his shots within 14 feet of the basket.
On defense, Reddish is agile, using his 7’1 wingspan and decent lateral movement to match him up against bigger and more dominant wings. I’m not calling him a stopper by any means, but Reddish is definitely not a hindrance on that end of the floor.
He is not a perfect player though. I’m concerned about his rebounding and block rate and he still has work to finish at the rim, which we’ll talk about below. Reddish’s offense is fairly predictable, making him a relatively easy scout.
His propensity for turnovers is also a concern, but that could be addressed with more playing time and development.
This season is hard to judge, given the two months he spent out of the Knicks rotation. However, at a glance, Reddish is still averaging 10.3 points on 35 percent three-point shooting, 2.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1 steal. All the numbers are up a bit since coming to Portland. In 12 games with the Blazers, he has 13.8 points on 39 percent three-point shooting, 3.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.4 steals.
Reddish’s assist numbers also look pretty impressive considering he’s still not 100 percent familiar with the playbook.
Many of the numbers below are from this season, specifically his time in Portland, but what struck me as interesting is that his career numbers didn’t vary too much.
His points per possession is the highest ever at 122.6, which ranks in the 86th percentile or 16th best among all wings.
As mentioned, his mid-range success hasn’t gone unnoticed with his 55 percent field goal percentage, which ranks in the 97th percentile, fourth in the league behind Eric Gordon and less usage Utah Jazz wings Kris Dunn and Ochai Agbaji.
His nearly 40 percent three-point shooting ranks in the 73rd percentile, or 32nd among all wings. He improved on shots above the break, hitting 40 percent, considered 83 percent or 29th among wings.
His effective field goal percentage (adjusting for the extra point made from three) is a career-best 57.1 percent, which ranks in the 78th percentile or 24th among wings. His free throw percentage is also a good 88.5 percent.
Reddish’s assist percentage is the highest ever with 15.1 percent of his shots assisted by Reddish, good for the 78th percentile or 24th among wings.
This happens to be one spot behind Hart, who the Blazers gave up to receive Reddish, Mattise Thybulle, Ryan Arcidiacon and a protected first-round pick.
To prove his utility on the defensive side of the ball, Reddish registered 2.0 percent of his steals per game, which ranks in the 89th percentile or 12th among wings. Interestingly, he ranked right behind defensive specialist OG Anunoby who seemed to be on every NBA team’s trade deadline wish list.
Unfortunately, Reddish’s percentage at the rim isn’t great at 53 percent, which ranks in the 18th percentile or 85th among wings.
I said it above – a solid handle. There are moments when he opens up with loose balls. During his tenure in Portland, that happened 13.2 percent of the time, good enough for the 33rd percentile in ball protection or 70th among wings.
His rebounding rate is a concern. During his career, Reddish has collected a total of 97 offensive rebounds, which is a good 0.6 rebounds per game. He is in the 50th percentile for wings with the Blazers. His defensive rebounding is more of a concern, catching just 9.0 percent of the ball in Portland, which ranks in the 29th percentile or 74th best among all wings.
Finally, his block rate could be higher. He blocked 0.4 percent of opposing shots representing Portland, the 43rd percentile or 60th among wings.
Right now, on a team trying to contend — not just the Portland Trail Blazers — Reddish would be a decent small forward option off the bench.
But given his obvious natural ability, Reddish has the potential to be a high-contributing starter if he can put it all together consistently. If he misses quarters and games at the same time, he could continue his tour of the league, riding on potential until the NBA draws a line through his name.
If all goes well, he’ll be a fourth or fifth option on offense while being able to hang with some of the best players in the league on the other side of the ball.
I’m reluctant to make player comparisons, but my instinct here is a player like Harrison Barnes, with shades of Batum himself.
Barnes fits on almost any NBA team because he can score at all three levels, defend and isn’t bad at generating offense.
Batum could become a contender if Reddish’s ball-handling ability becomes a mainstay. I can also see Tobias Harris if he can make the most of his physicality. Heck, he might even have shades of Gordon Hayward, but he’s not really close right now.
This whole debate could be moot if the Blazers make a difference-making upgrade play at three this summer. But I don’t begrudge GM Joe Cronin for giving Reddish a try. He has an innate ability that touches the breadth of basketball skills needed to succeed in the modern game.
I previously wrote that this starting unit doesn’t necessarily need another ball-handler with Lillard and Simons shouldering the lion’s share of those responsibilities. That probably explains why Reddish returned to the bench to help with the second unit.
However, his size and ability to get into scoring positions, with and without the ball, are traits this team hasn’t had at this position in some time.
Reddish showed enough to make me pause. At 23, he still has a lot of growing to do. Whether the Blazers can give him room to hone his skills and gain confidence, who knows?
As we say every week, Damian Lillard doesn’t have time for the players to be on the court. But given that Reddish is a pending restricted free agent and unlikely to attract ridiculous offers — I could be wrong — he’s worth keeping.
Why? Because despite his inconsistency and obvious shortcomings, he can now contribute on the floor without being a nuisance at the top of the list and still has room for improvement.
Reddish needs to prove he can play night-in, night-out, be relied upon to generate offense for himself and others, shoot from distance while being a reliable defender on some of the league’s better offensive wings.
If he adds it all up, there’s no reason he can’t be the starting small forward on a good to great NBA team.