Duke Basketball: Long wait may await Cam Reddish on draft night

(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
(Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

One of the Duke basketball program’s latest one-and-done products may become the latest case of an uncomfortable guy awkwardly sitting in the green room longer than expected.

Fair or not, some critics are essentially calling former Duke basketball player Cam Reddish a lemon.

Flawless at first glance. Undeniable defects upon further inspection.

Early in his high school career, the 6-foot-8 forward with a 7-foot-1 wingspan drew lofty praise with his sweet stroke and graceful game, earning the top spot on several early 2018 class rankings. Then the Norristown, Pa., native was a presumptive top-five pick for the 2019 NBA Draft until regularly playing the fourth wheel last season to fellow freshmen Zion Williamson, R.J. Barrett, and Tre Jones.

Shooting a head-scratching 35.6 percent from the field and 33.3 percent from the beyond the arc — while committing nearly three turnovers per game — did not help his stock.

Neither did his injuries and illnesses.

Reddish sat out the Blue Devils’ Canada Tour last August due to a groin injury. He suffered a fractured rib a few weeks before the start of the season but played through the discomfort while wearing a brace. He did not play in a January loss to Syracuse because he felt under the weather.

Months later, minutes before the tip of his team’s Sweet 16 matchup against Virginia Tech, he made the questionable decision not to play as a result of his knee tendonitis, thereby feeding the narrative that he lacks an insatiable hunger for winning.

And last week came the announcement of an injury to his core muscle, requiring a minor procedure and six weeks to fully heal.

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Although some buy into the hindsight view that the injury hindered his potential last season and the full disclosure of the injury will actually boost his draft position, not currently being healthy enough to play may be enough of a red flag to extend his waiting time before hearing his name on June 20.

CBS’s Gary Parrish is amongst the naysayers, dropping the 19-year-old to 11th — to the Minnesota Timberwolves — on his latest mock draft. While Parrish’s assessment is a bit harsh, his words may reflect exactly what many NBA executives are thinking:

"“So, yeah, he looks like a good shooter,” Parrish wrote. “But why do his shots so rarely go in? Some have compared Reddish to Rudy Gay. He’s built similarly to Jayson Tatum. But, truth is, he’s not that type of athlete. Beyond that, there are major questions about Reddish’s motor — and he was wildly inconsistent, and sometimes invisible, at Duke.“Was that simply the byproduct of being in the shadows of Williamson and Barrett? Or is it a troubling sign? That’s what NBA franchises have to figure out — preferably before spending a lottery pick on him."

Speaking of Tatum, a fellow one-and-done Dukie, USA Today’s Jordan Daly recently wrote an article addressing the possibility Reddish falls far enough to become his teammate with the Boston Celtics, owners of the 14th pick. Daly also pointed out the Celtics’ picks at No. 20 and No. 22, suggesting they could trade up to snag Reddish at No. 8, where many experts predict the Atlanta Hawks would otherwise take him.

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If either of the above scenarios plays out, Tatum would surely serve as an ideal Brotherhood mentor for Reddish.

If nothing else, Reddish has proved to be a friendly teammate who never once griped about having to exist in the shadow of Williamson, the surefire No. 1 pick, and Barrett, the likely No. 3 pick but who could possibly sneak his way up to No. 2.

Adding to his positive personality — plus his 13.6 scoring average as a freshman, which would look more splendid if not for insane 22.6 averages by both Williamson and Barrett — is his willingness to put his length to use on defense. Reddish averaged an impressive 1.6 steals last season by regularly picking off passes that would be out of reach for most.

And it is his defense — along with a shooting stroke showing the potential to prove doubters wrong sooner or later — that could make him a steal and potentially a lethal sixth man for whatever team takes a chance on his strengths outweighing his weaknesses.

Fair or not, though, the abundance of worries — including his lack of a lightning first step and less-than-stellar overall athleticism — may outsing the praises in these last couple weeks leading up to the draft.

Of course, whether he lands at a pick higher or lower than the average prediction, he will land a multimillion-dollar contract.

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And wherever Reddish ends up, he will have the opportunity to silence the critics while granting “told you so” rights to those Blue Devil fans who never stopped boasting about the star potential of the guy who calmly and confidently silenced Tallahassee on Jan. 12 with one of the program’s 10 sweetest game-winners.