It has taken a while for Cam Reddish to prove his place on the Knicks. Now that he’s doing so, what does that mean for the rotation?
New York Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau is, for better or worse, a creature of orthodox habits.
Dating back to when he first entered the league’s head coaching ranks in 2011, Thibodeau has held notoriously traditional coaching philosophies. He has a history of giving youngsters a short leash, handing out exorbitant minutes to stars, and, most importantly to this piece, running a tight, 10-man rotation.
But New York’s current 10-man lineup will almost certainly change soon, as Quentin Grimes has yet to enter the fold this season. The sophomore sniper has been battling a sore knee for the better half of a month. In Grimes’ place, Thibodeau has Cam Reddish in the rotation, who has made the most of his opportunities thus far. Through four regular season games, Reddish has scored 40 points while shooting 53.3% from the field and 45.5% from deep.
Below is a breakdown of what Reddish has done well over this small sample size and what it could mean in terms of future roster implications if Reddish continues to impress with Grimes out.
Improved Shot Selection
Reddish struggled to put the ball in the net during the preseason, shooting 5-for-22 over three games, and a big reason for this was his suboptimal shot selection. Reddish settled for pull-up mid-range jumpers, tightly contested layups, and off-balance threes throughout the preseason, much to the chagrin of Knicks faithful.
Credit to Reddish, however, because his shot selection has turned a new leaf since the season started, chiefly due to his improved patience.
The game has seemingly slowed down for Reddish. As a result, he is keeping the mind-numbing possessions – when he unnecessarily chucks up shots without even setting his feet or drives directly into the teeth of the defense with no evident plan – to a minimum. He’s picking his spots on the floor noticeably better than just two weeks prior, and it’s paying dividends for his efficiency and efficacy.
Two stats relating to Reddish’s shot diet stand out as particularly encouraging and point to his strides made as a decision-maker.
First, none of his points thus far have come from the archaic mid-range area, and he has yet even to attempt a shot therein. It’s worth noting that Reddish hasn’t shot better than 35% from this area in any of his seasons in the pros, so it’s for the best that he limits these attempts. The second encouraging stat worth noting is that all of his made threes have come off the catch. Reddish is 5-for-9 on his catch-and-shoot looks to this point, good for a 55.5% clip, compared to 0-for-2 on pull-up threes.
CAM REDDISH OMG!!! pic.twitter.com/NgIxQn954o
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 20, 2022
Reddish has historically been a superior catch-and-shoot threat than a shot creator from deep. On average, the 6’8 wing shot 8.3% better on his catch-and-shoot threes over his first three NBA seasons. It’s no secret why this is: he does a much better job properly setting his feet and lower body on these attempts. There are still plenty of occasions where the shot mechanics look off on his standstill threes, but not at the same regularity as his self-created tries.
Led by Immanuel Quickley and Obi Toppin, New York’s second unit is young, energetic, and blazingly fast. As has been the case for the past two years, it’s once again looking like one of the more dynamic benches in basketball. And no reserve has been a bigger beneficiary of the fast tempo New York’s bench plays with than Reddish.
On a roster with significant transition threats, such as Jalen Brunson, RJ Barrett, and the aforementioned Quickley and Toppin, Reddish has far and away been the team’s top fastbreak scorer through four contests not named Brunson.
According to NBA.com, Reddish is averaging 1.31 points per transition possession (69th percentile). Furthermore, he’s shooting 58.3% from the field in these situations. Only 40 qualified players are currently converting a higher percentage of their transition looks.
Reddish is a devastating cover in the open court because of his footwork and creativity around the basket. He utilizes quick-twitch hesitation moves and long strides to knife through the defense. And when he’s at the cup, Reddish can finish plays with aesthetic scoop layups or throw it down with authority if he has the runway to do so.
where were you for the Cam Reddish game? pic.twitter.com/ugqhAlDLch
— The Knicks Wall (@TheKnicksWall) October 20, 2022
With a second unit consisting of Quickley, Toppin, and Reddish, expect the Knicks’ reserves to pick up a lot of easy baskets in transition this season, either off of turnovers or missed layups, especially considering the NBA has banned the “take foul,” which teams used to stop fastbreak sequences. Now, if a player intentionally fouls another to prevent a run out without making a play on the ball, the offensive team receives one free throw and then gets the ball back.
Flashes of great defense on opening night
Reddish entered the NBA with a reputation as an active and disruptive defender. At Duke, he gave opponents trouble in passing lanes and during full-court presses with his active hands. While Reddish has yet to replicate the same defensive success in the pros, he gave fans a glimpse of the defender he was in college with a three-steal game on opening night versus the Grizzlies.
Two of Reddish’s three takeaways came from disrupting Memphis’ passing lanes. And the passes he picked off were thrown by Ja Morant and Tyus Jones, a pair of elite assist men (though Jones was admittedly falling out of bounds when he threw his). Like so many times in college, Reddish was at the right place at the right time, showing off his great anticipation. He once again showed off his great hands and timing with a key late-game strip on a Hornets fastbreak that helped the team go to overtime.
That said, Reddish has yet to accumulate another steal since opening night and hasn’t averaged more than one per game since his sophomore campaign, so whether his defensive performance was merely a flash in the pan remains to be seen. But with solid instincts and length, the groundwork is there for Reddish to be an impactful defender in the steals department for this Knicks team.
Suppose Reddish continues to fill up the scoring column and sprinkle in some solid defensive sequences here and there. In that case, he has a legit shot at leapfrogging someone in Thibodeau’s 10-man rotation once Grimes returns. All signs point to that someone being Derrick Rose.
Rose is averaging the fewest minutes of anyone in Thibodeau’s rotation (12.2 minutes) because the Knicks already have two younger and better point guards ahead of him in the pecking order, Jalen Brunson and Quickley. Rose’s skill set isn’t needed on this team like it was a year ago when the lack of shot-creators and capable point guards on the Knicks was glaring. For these reasons, if anyone in Thibodeau’s rotation is expendable, it’s Rose.