It didn’t take long for the haters to line up after Cam Reddish’s sluggish start to his NBA career. Following just one year at Duke, the Hawks selected him with the tenth overall pick. The concerns were legitimate; Reddish only shot 33% as a freshman, but the potential was undeniable and too much for the Hawks to pass up.
In his first month of the NBA (5 games), the former Blue Devil only shot 20.9% from the field and an abysmal 5.6% from deep, giving ammo to internet GMs everywhere who mocked the Hawks’ selection. Reddish wasn’t much better in November (12 games), shooting just 32% and followed that up with a 35.9% clip in December. However, despite how poorly he was offensively on a given night, he never let that distract him on the opposite end.
Coming out of the draft, most expected De’Andre Hunter to become the Hawks’ lockdown defender on the perimeter. The former Virginia Cavalier was fresh off a national championship and the Defensive Player of the Year award, leading many draft experts to view him as the best defensive player in the 2019 draft class. However, as he and Reddish’s rookie years transpired, it was overwhelmingly evident who the better defensive prospect was. While Hunter found it difficult to stay in front of wings on the perimeter, Reddish became the team’s go-to defender in clutch moments and was often tasked with the most challenging assignment.
Reddish’s long wingspan and quick feet allow him to guard positions 1-4, and many times throughout the year, we saw coach Lloyd Pierce trust him with defending some of the most explosive point guards in the NBA. That’s something every NBA team needs, especially when Trae Young is your point guard. Hawks GM Travis Schlenk talked about that earlier this offseason, via Sarah K. Spencer of the AJC:
“He’s got a chance to be one of the best defensive players in the league. … His defensive versatility, being able to guard quicker point guards and kind of cover Trae (Young) on that end is going to be extremely important to us moving forward.”
And Reddish takes pride in that side of the game; he told Spencer, “I definitely want to be known as one of the best two-way players.”
But for that to happen, the 6’8″ hybrid wing will have to continue his improvements on offense, as we saw at the end of last season.
After his abysmal start shooting, things began to pick up once the calendar flipped to 2020. Reddish shot 41.1% from the field in January, along with an excellent 40.3% from behind the arc. In February, he shot over 44% from the field, and even though March was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic, Reddish posted an outstanding 55.1% mark from the field and 47.6% from three in four games, averaging 17.5 points off the bench.
By the end of the year, Reddish was the third-most reliable offensive option on the Hawks’ roster — behind their talented duo of Trae Young and John Collins — and their go-to player on defense, something most people overlooked at Duke.
When judging a players’ first season, it’s often foolish to look at their season stats. It’s a lot more telling to look at their progression from start to finish. Just take Trae Young, for example. In the first half of his rookie campaign, he was a turnover machine that couldn’t hit water in the ocean. But by the end of the year, he was playing like an All-Star. We saw the same sort of progression from Reddish in his rookie year. If this continues next season, he could be an All-Star caliber player much quicker than anybody could have imagined.