After an equally tantalizing and frustrating season at Duke, Cam Reddish enters the NBA draft as its most polarizing prospect. The 6-foot-8 forward has always dazzled scouts with his effortless scoring ability, but his inefficient play has left NBA executives wondering whether he is truly worthy of a top-five pick. This is Blue Zone editor Glen Morgenstern's argument why teams are overvaluing Reddish. If you want to read why he deserves the hype, click here.
In a string quintet, there are only two parts for violin. In the Jackson Five, Michael and Jermaine took nearly all the vocal roles; everybody knows Tito’s voice was merely token. And in basketball as in music, two’s company and three’s a crowd.
Therefore, it is not entirely difficult to see why Cam Reddish’s turbid role within Duke’s scheme this past year never quite cleared up. The No. 3 recruit played third fiddle to the gargantuan figures of Zion Williamson and R.J. Barrett—gargantuan, that is, only to normally-sized humans, as all three of them are within one inch of each other. This prompted head coach Mike Krzyzewski to test out a brand of “positionless basketball,” a fad which frustrated reporters to no end as Krzyzewski sharply reprimanded all who whispered the numbers one through five or the words "guard" or "forward." God forbid if you added a modifier to the position.
Perhaps positionless basketball was indeed the best strategy to maximize the freshmen’s abilities, but it sure didn’t look that way to anyone watching Cam Reddish practically any time this season. All three came to Duke primed for Krzyzewski to turn them into masterpieces. But while Williamson and Barrett coalesced into a Michelangelo fresco which made Jay Bilas wither into an overjoyed puddle of tears, Reddish transformed into a living collage of nervous habits.
When Reddish finally got his chance to isolate on the wing, his pent-up energy sent his defender toppling to the ground and earned a charge call from the referees. It became a trademark play of his, one which could be expected every game and eventually desensitized Blue Devil fans to this stunting of his basketball growth. Reddish committed more fouls per game than Williamson and Barrett despite far fewer touches and, typically, easier defensive assignments.
And then there’s the inconsistency—oh, the inconsistency! Reddish flames can scorch opponents from deep, which Florida State found out the hard way Jan. 12. When he starts cold, though, all attempts at ignition sputter out into exasperated sighs, echoing those of the Crazies. Take, for example, his 1-for-7, six-turnover game against Texas Tech. How about his 1-for-11 performance against lowly Georgia Tech? Reddish certainly didn’t sparkle in a 2-for-8 performance from the field in Duke’s Elite Eight exodus against Michigan State.
Yet he remains in many pundits’ minds a top-10 draft pick because of his potential—whatever that means. While Reddish was mainly touted as a shooter, he shot just 33 percent from long range this season. North Carolina’s Cameron Johnson shot 45 percent from deep this year and seems better suited to make a splash right away in the Association, but many predict him to be taken 10 picks lower than Reddish. Dylan Windler, Belmont’s senior hero and 40-percent three-point sniper, is also somehow hanging out at the end of the first round.
Yes, Cam Reddish came through in clutch moments this year. Yes, Duke fans are grateful that Reddish sacrificed a potential alpha role to join the Brotherhood in Durham. However, NBA teams should not mistake gratitude for genuine belief that Cam Reddish is a top-10 pick in the draft. Just because Reddish has an NBA skillset does not mean he will be immediately ready to compete with the best players in the world.
Reddish is like a healthy person who has learned to walk with a crutch. Make no mistake: without Williamson or Barrett next year, Reddish will fall. Whether he gets up or resigns himself to the bench—or worse, the G-League—for perpetuity will determine his legacy in the pros.
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