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What if the Wizards drafted Cam Reddish in 2019?

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New York Knicks v Atlanta Hawks
What if the Wizards drafted Cam Reddish in 2019?
Photo by Scott Cunningham/NBAE via Getty Images

If the Wizards drafted Cam Reddish instead of Rui Hachimura in 2019, fans of the team would be calling for Tommy Sheppard’s job, and they’d probably be right.

Here’s what I wrote about Reddish before last year’s draft:

He’s a consensus top 10 pick. Despite an atrocious season at Duke, no mock I consulted had him going later than 10th, and one had him going as early as fifth. In my analysis, Reddish was mostly red flags — below 40% shooting on two-point attempts (suggesting problems getting to the basket and finishing), poor rebounding and assist rates, high turnovers. Analytic pluses: solid free throw shooting and steals.

Most of the reasons offered to explain Reddish’s poor performance don’t stand up to scrutiny. One theory is that he was overly deferential to talented teammates like Williamson and Barrett. But, His usage rate was over 25%, which is on the high end in the draft class. His efficiency was low even though he shared the floor with those same high-quality players attracting defensive attention so he wasn’t being asked to do too much. He had opportunity and advantages, yet he still played poorly. He has a “don’t draft” grade in YODA — not even in the second round.

Reddish’s rookie year mostly supported this analysis. He shot poorly from two-point range and was below average from behind the arc. His rebounding was so-so, he’s not much of a playmaker, and his turnovers were a little elevated considering his low usage rate. While is free throw shooting was good, he didn’t get to the line much.

Defense was his relative strength, and that was just okay. Let’s put it this way, his defense would have fit in with this year’s Wizards.

His offensive efficiency was 16.4 points per 100 possessions worse than league average despite a usage of just 18.3%.

To sum up, he was terrible.

Comps from my statistical doppelganger machine aren’t much more promising. His closest match is Ben McLemore’s age 20 season. Other “most similars” include Dillon Brooks, DerMarr Johnson and Stanley Johnson. Also Wesley Johnson. And, just a little further down the list: Joe Johnson.

That last one is Reddish’s most favorable comp. Next closest would be Harrison Barnes, who was decent in a limited role with the Golden State, but is now working on his second maximum salary contract despite demonstrating thorough mediocrity.

This is not to say Reddish is doomed to be a bust. He seems to have the requisite physical ability to become a good NBA player. His year at Duke and his year with the Hawks indicate he has a lot of work to do. If he puts in that work, he could have a positive outcome. Most players who start like him don’t end up becoming quality NBA players, however.

So, what would picking Reddish have done for the Wizards? In my analysis, it would have been a colossal whiff. While it’s still not clear how good Hachimura will become, it’s highly likely he’ll be a significantly better pro than Reddish. So, the Wizards would have wasted a key asset in acquiring the talent necessary for their reload strategy.

And, Reddish’s bad rookie year would have shaken fan confidence in Sheppard and the team’s new braintrust. Fans — and potential fans — would have assumed (with good reason) that not much had changed with the ouster of Ernie Grunfeld and anticipated more losing seasons.

EDITED after publication to add Reddish’s performance EKG. As noted in the comments section, Reddish did play better later in the season than he did in the first half of the year. His improvement, in my analysis, was from horrific to below average.

Cam Reddish performance EKG for 2019-20.
Kevin Broom