During the past two weeks, much has changed for the Lakers. Having lifted themselves out of the hole created by Anthony Davis’ injury with a five-game winning streak, the Lakers are now just a game behind the eighth-seeded Warriors, two behind the sixth-place Kings, and three behind the Kings in fifth.
Although the Lakers have begun to establish a winning identity based on hustle and a sneakily proficient offense (10th-best over the past two weeks), the roster imbalance that caused issues at the beginning of the season has continued to plague the team, and will rear its head come playoff time — that is, if the Lakers even get there.
Heading into trade season, the Lakers should be looking to add a player big enough to actually guard elite scoring wings (read: not the 6’2” Patrick Beverley) and shoot three’s well enough not to clog up the offense. Coming off of his first career start, the 19-year-old rookie Max Christie looks like he could be part of the answer to the Lakers’ deficit of credible wing depth. However, relying upon a teenage second-round rookie in any significant way is not exactly a position of strength for a team with championship aspirations.
With the Knicks making it known that Cam Reddish is available for a pair of seconds, most NBA teams should be able to pay that price if they so chose. Over the remainder of the decade, which includes six more drafts, the Lakers have nine second round picks, any of which can be legally traded at any time. Also, as the Lakers did in this most recent draft where they selected Max Christie, as well as the 2019 Draft where they picked Talen Horton-Tucker, they can seemingly always buy a second-rounder from the Magic if they actually want to select someone there.
Therefore, the only thing stopping the Lakers from pulling the trigger on Reddish should be the opportunity cost of using those picks as sweeteners for a different upgrade, now or later.
So is Reddish worth the low, low price of admission? Well, the answer isn’t quite so simple.
Right now, Reddish is on the outside of a rotation again on his second team despite the fact that his current team traded a (highly protected) first-round pick for him less than a year ago. He’s never been consistently good on an NBA floor, but the size, athleticism, and skill are so apparent just from watching him run around the court. It’s so obvious that teams continue to convince themselves that Reddish can come in and develop into the special talent that earned him a lottery selection coming out of Duke.
Cam Reddish clearly the most naturally gifted player to take the floor today. Tantalizing at 6-8 with a smooth jumper. Shoots such an easy ball. pic.twitter.com/KD0zBgtJj8— Mike Schmitz (@Mike_Schmitz) May 22, 2019
While it would probably seem even more preposterous for the Lakers to welcome Cam Reddish with a quote from the Book of Genesis, considering the fact that Reddish hasn’t even played in an NBA game since December 3, it’s not hard to see the outline of a promising young two-way wing with a little bit of refinement.
However, through three seasons and change, a handful of issues have plagued Reddish’s path to consistency. Quietly, he’s graded out as an above average on-ball defender since his rookie season, but it’s his offensive inefficiency and lack of rebounding that have really undermined his production. So far in his career, Reddish has shot 32.3% on threes, a number that has fallen to just 30.4% this season. For him to be an impactful rotation player, he needs to be the knockdown guy that scouts projected him to become when he entered the draft. Also, he has one of the worst defensive rebounding rates in the league at just 2.0 per 75 possessions. Although no team would expect Hoover-esque results from Reddish, his relative deficiency puts added pressure on his teammates to clean up the glass. There’s no reason for a nearly Kyle Kuzma-sized athlete like Reddish to completely fail to hit the glass. He also grades out as a poor off-ball mover, and rarely creates for his teammates, without ever averaging more than 1.3 assists per game.
Altogether, these attributes speak to a player who has failed to find a way to fit into a team concept and become a winning player. There are people in league circles who believe Reddish to be one of the more problematic personas on an NBA roster — a talented player who believes himself to be significantly greater than he is, torpedoing his effectiveness alongside superior teammates.
Still, there are signs that Reddish may be turning things around for the better on offense.
According to the NBA’s tracking data, Reddish is taking fewer pull-up attempts than ever without taking any fewer catch-and-shoot attempts. And according to the BBall Index, his shot quality has risen from the bottom of the league to about league average. However, that increase in quality did not coincide with an increase in accuracy, an improvement that has to be made for Reddish to stick around.
Whether the Lakers should move on Reddish depends entirely upon the intel they have about his willingness to develop as a shooter and buy-in to a complimentary role.
If the Lakers are confident that they can help Cam Reddish become the version of himself that more closely resembles KCP’s trajectory — a defensive pest who doubles as an elite movement shooter — they should pull the trigger on the deal yesterday. If they can’t envision those developments in his near future, they should steer clear, and avoid doing what the Knicks did in trading for a player who their own coach won’t play.
Cooper is a lifelong Laker fan who has also covered the Yankees at SB Nation’s Pinstripe Alley. No, he’s not also a Cowboys fan. You can follow him on Twitter at @cooperhalpern. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted.