Is Being Duke's Third Wheel Hurting Cam Reddish's NBA Draft Stock?

Jonathan Wasserman@@NBADraftWassNBA Lead WriterFebruary 5, 2019

DURHAM, NORTH CAROLINA - FEBRUARY 02: Cam Reddish #2 of the Duke Blue Devils reacts after a three-poit basket against the St. John's Red Storm during the first half of their game at Cameron Indoor Stadium on February 02, 2019 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)
Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Duke's Cam Reddish is on track to become college basketball's most inefficient lottery pick in recent NBA draft history.

He's shooting a brutal 34.9 percent from the field, and yet there's still a high level of interest among scouts for the 6'8", 218-pound, 19-year-old wing.

He isn't earning any new fans with his 10.0 player efficiency rating during ACC play, but the bandwagon hasn't emptied out

The complicated Reddish scouting equation requires factoring in his significant role change from focal point in high school to No. 3 option behind Zion Williamson and RJ Barrett in college. Through 20 games, a combined 66.4 percent of his offense has come from spot-ups, transition or working off screens.

For the most part, it seems to have created wiggle room with scouts, who are showing a willingness to overlook the stats given the adjustment he's had to make in terms of touches and shot selection plus the long-term draw to his physical profile and shooting.

"Nothing's changed for me [since October]," one scout told Bleacher Report.

Said another: "I'm not totally out on Reddish."

"I like his upside a lot. Huge fan," one NBA executive said. "My only concern is that he tends to defer to those other two [Williamson and Barrett]."

This season has shed more light on the pre-NCAA concerns regarding Reddish's lack of assertiveness. He's helped validate prior criticism by drifting in and out, finishing eight games with three or fewer field goals.

"Think he's got some stuff missing from a mental-edge standpoint," the second scout said. "But he's not a bad kid. He's just a little soft, a little coddled. He isn't an alpha personality."

It has become tougher to envision Reddish, a top-two overall recruit, per 247Sports, evolving into the star his physical tools and perimeter scoring pointed to from ages 16 to 18. The perception of his future NBA identity is changing. But Reddish's new player type projection still remains attractive for those able to accept a ceiling below lead scorer.

"I think Nicolas Batum is the realistic upside," the second scout said. "Jeff Green is the downside. And you can't really rule out the poor man's Paul George, though I'd never bet on that."

Reddish has hit 50 three-pointers, averaging 3.8 triples per 40 minutes. Considering the fluidity of his shot, as well as his 77.0 percent free-throw mark, the made jumpers outweigh his 33.8 percent three-point clip under the NBA scouting scope.

Even dating back to high school and FIBA, the eye test on Reddish's shooting has always been more convincing than the numbers. And scouts appear to be continuing to buy into his shot-making.

There are also reasons to be optimistic about Reddish's defensive outlook. Aside from encouraging height, quickness and length, he's demonstrating strong instincts while reacting off the ball, providing help and jumping passing lanes.

His 3.1 steals per 40 minutes are promising.

Because of his defensive playmaking, measurements and foot speed to guard multiple positions and the fact he's added defensive value despite all the offensive turbulence, two-way potential has surfaced as a selling point on Reddish's scouting report.

And it's that projected three-and-D floor that's helped keep interest alive, though a perceived weak 2019 field of prospects doesn't hurt.

It's still worth addressing where Reddish has gone wrong and why the idea of Paul George 2.0 seems farfetched.

He's shooting 36.9 percent inside the arc, averaging 1.6 two-point field goals per game. Excluding Michael Porter Jr. (three NCAA games), no player in over 25 years has been drafted in the top 50 with a two-point mark below 38.0 percent, per ESPN's Jonathan Givony. Isaiah Whitehead (39.0 percent), Malachi Richardson (38.8 percent) and Devonte' Graham (39.2 percent) were close. 

While Reddish's role should absorb some blame, he's having trouble creating and identifying scoring chances that aren't catch-and-shoot jumpers. Only 36.2 percent of his field-goal attempts have been twos.

He's missed all five of his runners this season and converted only 48.5 percent of his shots around the basket. Reddish lacks strength, explosion and touch. He's also had a problem with feel and knowing what step, route or angle to take to finish in a crowd.

He ranks in the 33rd percentile in transition points per possession and often leaps off one foot without a plan or window through which to score.

There is still hope Reddish can develop into more than a shooter. He played a lot of point forward in high school, mostly thanks to his ball-handling after defensive rebounds and off ball screens.

Reddish's assist numbers (3.2 per 40 minutes) aren't exciting with Barrett and Tre Jones making the decisions, but he's a plus passer, which he's shown on drives past closeouts and lobs that lead Williamson to easy finishes above the rim.

He's only had 27 possessions running pick-and-rolls, but his 1.07 points per possession rank in the 93rd percentile. He's made six of 11 pull-ups (and both of his takes to the basket) when dribbling off the pick.

And though rare, we've seen glimpses of one-on-one skill that flashed more frequently in high school.

Scouts have to ask how much untapped scoring and playmaking potential there is and what's the likelihood of Reddish improving in those areas, particularly given the questions about his aggression and mentality.

Have Reddish's ball skills and creation been masked by the presences of Williamson and Barrett and lower usage and less freedom than he had in high school? Or are we learning his offense just isn't sharp enough to translate against stiffer competition?

Either way, scouts see a favorable NBA fit with Reddish, even if the idea of a future star is fading.

       

Stats courtesy of Synergy Sports and Basketball Reference.

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