NBA: Grading the Cam Reddish trade between the Knicks-Hawks

Grading the Cam Reddish trade between the New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks. 

The Atlanta Hawks essentially opened trade season on Thursday morning, dealing promising young wing Cam Reddish to the New York Knicks for a protected first-round pick and Kevin Knox. The Knicks will also receive Solomon Hill and a second-round pick in the deal.

Rumors were picking up steam on the Hawks’ desire to trade the third-year man out of Duke, and they finally pulled the trigger on a move. The first-round pick they are getting in return is a top-18 protected selection via the Hornets, which may or may not transfer this year depending on draft position. If it doesn’t convey this season, it will likely be transferred sometime within the next three drafts, as the Hornets would just need to make the playoffs.

Once the ninth overall selection in the 2018 draft, Kevin Knox has never lived up to his initial expectations. With the wing never recording a shooting season above 39 percent in his career, he’s struggled to find playing time in the Knicks’ deep bench. Ultimately, he’s nothing more than salary filler in this trade, but Atlanta could see him as a flier 3-and-D prototype, as he does stand at 6-foot-7.

Similarly, Solomon Hill was shipped to New York to free up a roster spot for the Hawks. The veteran forward is set to miss the rest of the regular season following a hamstring tear. The Knicks could look to retain him following the season, as he would help bring their bench back to last year’s defensive identity, but there’s no idea how the 30-year-old will come back from such a gruesome injury.

With that being said, let’s look at the grades from both parties involved in the first eye-opening trade of the 2021-22 season.

New York Knicks grade: A

The Knicks acquired a high-potential wing for pennies on the dollar, considering Reddish’s overall ceiling as a prospect. It’s fair to say the Duke-product has had a rocky first three years in the league, often making his team worse than better when he’s on the court. That trend has continued through half of this season, with the Hawks’ net rating at -17.4 in the minutes he’s played, placing him in the 2nd percentile of on/off statistics.

Despite this, it’s hard to ignore the potential that Cam Reddish holds, considering his raw physical tools and the position he plays. Wings that can hold their own on both ends of the court are becoming a premium in this league, and by attempting to pair Reddish with former college teammate RJ Barrett, the Knicks could be set for multiple years.

Cam Reddish fits the defensive-first mindset that coach Tom Thibodeau believes in while showcasing skills as both a ball-handler and perimeter shooter. The Knicks, who rely far too often on Julius Randle in their half-court offense, desperately could use another offensive creator. Reddish, although not there yet, can bring the Knicks’ offense to a new level, instead of throwing the ball to Randle in the post, hoping he gets to the free-throw line.

Cam is due for a rookie extension after next season, so the Knicks should get a little over 100 games to see if he can contribute to winning basketball. New York will also have to pay Barrett and Immanuel Quickley, so along with Randle’s monster extension through the 2025-26 season, this team could get expensive quickly.

Even if Reddish never lives up to his potential, and becomes an energy-giving bench piece, this trade won’t be a complete failure. A middle-of-the-road first-round pick, especially when you still control your own, is a fine price to pay for a promising 22-year-old at a position of value.

Atlanta Hawks grade: N/A

With the Hawks reportedly making everyone available except Trae Young and Clint Capela, it seems more fit to wait to grade them until more deals are completed. Trading Reddish by himself for this package seems puzzling at first, but would likely make more sense with a bigger picture.

Atlanta has been reluctant to pay Cam Reddish what he’s asking for in restricted free agency, meaning he’s likely gone either way. Picking up a first-round pick and salary filler for a once highly-touted prospect seems low but isn’t bad considering they weren’t going to retain him.

It’s strange to see the Hawks trade one of their core pieces so soon when they’re fresh off an Eastern Conference Finals appearance, but sitting at 17-23 through 40 games, out of the playoff picture, it makes sense. Atlanta isn’t positioned to make any noise in the playoffs this season, so shifting their championship window by picking up draft picks while the superstar point guard hasn’t even entered his prime yet makes sense.

The Hawks are positioning to make future moves, whether it be at the trade deadline or this upcoming offseason. They have a similar decision to make on the status of De’Andre Hunter, who’s due for a rookie extension after this season. At the same time, they’ll get the $20 million of Danilo Gallinari off the books, freeing up more flexibility for the team.

With rumblings of a John Collins for Ben Simmons swap, the Hawks are far from done after a disappointing first half of the season, making it impossible to grade this move on its own. The pure value acquired for a player of Reddish’s potential is about right considering his contractual situation.

Let’s see what button Travis Schlenk pushes next. Cam Reddish was only the first domino to fall.