How Cam Reddish trade could impact Knicks’ lineup and defense

Cam Reddish Knicks jersey swap

On Thursday, the Knicks traded Kevin Knox and Charlotte’s protected first-round pick to the Atlanta Hawks for Cam Reddish, Solomon Hill, a second-round pick . This deal served as the starting gun to the NBA trade season, and New York’s first shakeup of their roster since the offseason.

Inbound is Reddish, a former 10th overall pick and college teammate of RJ Barrett. While the Hawks may have been too deep on the wings and too invested in other contract extension to retain him, the Knicks saw a potential addition to their young core.

How big of an addition is it, and what can Reddish provide to this rotation right away?

Reddish is 22 years old, stands 6’8” and 218 pounds, and is oozing potential. Hawks fans and experts drooled about his future All-Star chances, boasting a mixed bag of undeveloped talents.

While his size indicates he’s a bigger wing, Reddish is known offensively for his guard skills. He’s shooting 37.9 percent from three, and much higher on strictly catch-and-shoot looks. His ball-handling is already impressive for his size, with room to grow. There are shades of playmaking as well, to the point where Atlanta experimented with him at point guard.

Reddish is a dynamic athlete who can change speeds and leap with the best of them. The challenge for him is harnessing these gifts and applying them well on a consistent basis. One game he looks like Paul George incarnate, another a very raw prospect.

Defensively is where he can have the biggest impact. His ability to cover ground horizontally and vertically, his over-seven-foot wingspan and his instinct make him a tantalizing prospect on that end, and he’s already proven to be capable there in stretches.

That’s likely where he’d be able to contribute right away. While there’s sure to be an adjustment period trying to grasp Tom Thibodeau’s system, with some quick pulls following mistakes along the way, there’s no better situation to unlock his potential as a defender.

Coming into the season, it was clear this Knicks roster lacked a high-impact individual defender to throw at the league’s stars or crush an opponent’s possession on their own, especially in the 6’6” or above category.

Barrett has looked the part at times, but doesn’t measure up to Reddish’s build or bounce. An easy way for Reddish to carve out minutes for himself will be as a defensive swiss army knife, capable of switching onto multiple positions and mucking up offenses with his 1.6 steals per 36 minutes.

Whether he’s ready to step into that role immediately is a fair question, as with the rest of his game, the defense ebbs and flows. There’s also another issue: who he’d unseat in the rotation.

As it stands, the Knicks are running a nine-man rotation, laying heavy minutes on Barrett and playing both Barrett and Alec Burks with the bench units often despite starting games. This gives Reddish an early opportunity.

That said, Derrick Rose and Kemba Walker are due back at some point, and neither are expected to be held out of the rotation. That leaves two realistic victims: Quentin Grimes and Obi Toppin.

Both have had strong overall seasons, but the former being a rookie and the latter struggling to make an impact lately, especially without the creation of others, leaves them susceptible. Reddish may be the superior defender of the three, which is relevant.

Smart money is on Grimes losing out. Unfortunately being a rookie puts you beneath the totem pole, despite the performance.

Still, COVID-19 is running rampant and injuries are always at play, so this surely wouldn’t be the last of him.

When the Knicks were well under .500 just a few weeks ago, fans clamored for the Rose-level fleecing that could help turn the season around. While the winning has already picked up and Reddish won’t be that level of contributor right away, this trade is nothing to scoff at.

New York is gearing up for another late-season run at the postseason, and will need all the help it can get. Reddish is a big bet on the future, but if he can tap into the potential that made him so polarizing, he’ll be a big part of that run.