As far as NBA fanbases go, Atlanta Hawks fans have a good grip on reality. They don't photoshop every free agent into a Hawks jersey, and they don't pine for a nostalgic past. As the previous few years have shown, they are both patient and supportive with rebuilds. All in all, they are pretty level-headed - except when it comes to Cam Reddish. No player on the roster evokes reactions like the 6'8 wing.
Public opinion swings from manic #ReddishMVP talk to hasty trade talk on any given day. Reddish's flashes of brilliance convert the most skeptical fans into believers. His cold-shooting nights throw ice water on those dreams. Comparisons can range from Paul George to Patrick Patterson.
Like most things in life, the truth is somewhere in the middle. Before Reddish reaches for superstardom, he must grasp consistency. The former lottery pick will be eligible for a rookie contract extension next summer. Following years of financial flexibility, the Hawks salary cap is finally tightening up and will be near rigid once the team reaches a deal with Kevin Huerter.
Reddish's direct competition for a contract extension will be fellow 2019 NBA Draft classmate and close friend, De'Andre Hunter. Like Reddish, Hunter is an ideal perimeter defender capable of shutting down multiple positions. Hunter is the better player but carries his own baggage - multiple knee surgeries.
Reddish isn't a problem to be solved, rather a project to be developed. So as we close in on a make-or-break season for the third-year player, let's set five attainable goals that would lay the groundwork for his continued growth.
Play 65+ Games
A lot of the games Reddish has missed in his career are not his fault. A core injury slowed down the start of his rookie season, and a pandemic prematurely ended it. A nagging Achilles injury sidelined him for 2.5 months of his sophomore season before he returned to impress in the playoffs. Most of life is just showing up, and if Reddish is in the lineup most nights, he will find his rhythm, which has proven to be elusive throughout this young career.
Shoot 35% from 3PT
One thing you have to love about Reddish is his unrelenting self-confidence. It's part of what got him where he is today and will guide him to reach his full potential. He's a streaky shooter that is capable of hitting 64% from three against the eventual NBA Champions in the Eastern Conference Finals and shooting 2-9 in a preseason game versus a depleted Memphis Grizzlies. When opposing teams put smaller defenders on him, Reddish should make them pay. But the ability to catch-and-shoot is key to keeping him on the court.
Dish 2.5 Assists Per Game
Reddish has proven he can unfurl at the rim and finish with devastating authority or slick layup packages. But much like his outside shooting, his ability to finish at the rim lacks consistency. Last season, Reddish finished on 57.6% of his attempts within 5 feet of the rim.
When Reddish goes into iso-mode, he's prone to taking off-balanced shots. The second unit has plenty of shooters who can make defenses pay for collapsing on Reddish. What's more, he is a talented passer. Doubling his assists per game (1.3) and increasing his assist percentage (6.5%) is an important step in his development.
Reduce Wasted Possesions
Despite a modest usage percentage (19.3%), Reddish turned the ball over 10.2 times per 100 possessions last season. A sloppy handle coupled with difficult shot attempts hurts the forward's efficiency and hinders the team's offense. Building off my previous goal and echoing what Coach McMillan said after the Cavaliers game, Reddish needs to find himself offensively.
Receive NBA All-Defensive Team Votes
Thanks to his basketball I.Q. and cat-like ability to jump passing lanes, Reddish led the Hawks in steals per game last season (1.3). His size and strength create torture chambers for seasoned veterans. The 22-year-old is still a long way off from earning prestigious league awards, but just receiving votes would mean he had a successful season.
Reddish can make himself an integral part of the Hawks roster by 'knowing the assignment' and focusing on becoming a prototypical 3-and-D player with extra emphasis on the D. Everyone in Atlanta is pulling for him. A full season with adequate progress would put him back on track for the career trajectory of a former lottery pick.
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