As the Knicks embark on the second half of the schedule with improved play on the court, the front office has stepped up its game, too, swinging a trade for Atlanta’s Cam Reddish.
The Knicks acquired Reddish, Solomon Hill and the Nets’ 2025 second-round pick in exchange for little-used former lottery pick Kevin Knox and the Charlotte Hornets’ heavily protected 2022 first-round pick.
Reddish, 22, was taken No. 10 overall in the 2019 NBA Draft. The deal reunites him with former Duke teammate Barrett, a pairing that joined Duke’s Zion Williamson in landing in the top 10 of that draft. More important, it gives the Knicks another talented wing to bolster their roster.
The move provides a high-reward, low-risk opportunity if coach Tom Thibodeau and his staff can bring out the potential that Reddish possesses. It marks the first time that Leon Rose has been willing to surrender a future first-round pick, the draft assets being a huge change from previous regimes in New York.
With two straight wins and four in their last five, the Knicks (21-21) have crawled back to .500 just past the midpoint of the season (their next game is in Atlanta on Saturday night). But even as the Knicks’ starters put together one of their most complete performances in Wednesday’s victory over Dallas, Thibodeau was careful to point out that the team should not be satisfied.
"I look at it as are we playing good basketball, and we got to stack our days," he said. "I hope we’re not satisfied with that. There’s a long way to go, and we got to keep fighting. So we can’t feel too good about ourselves. We have to start getting ready for Atlanta, so it doesn’t end. It’s game after game after game, and we have to have that mentality."
Reddish averaged 11.9 points in a career-low 23.4 minutes per game for the Hawks this season. His primary skill entering the NBA was his shooting; that has not translated yet, with career marks of 38.5% overall and 32.9% from beyond the arc.
Reddish reportedly has sought a larger role than he had with the Hawks. He could get that with the Knicks, although with Barrett and Evan Fournier in place as the starting wings, it is unlikely that it will be in a starting role.
With the Feb. 10 trade deadline still nearly a month away, the Knicks pulled off this deal while the Hawks were openly shopping Reddish. In a radio interview last week, Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk said, "We have a few weeks before the trade deadline here, and this is what I need to figure out. It’s my responsibility to put a product on the floor that can win, and right now, I’m not sure I have done that."
The Hawks knocked the Knicks out of the playoffs last season and seemed poised to jump into the upper echelon of NBA teams but have struggled badly with a 17-23 record that includes three straight losses. With Schlenk openly criticizing the roster construction, some NBA executives believe that this move is a precursor to a larger deal and that the first-round pick is something they picked up to flip in another deal.
Reddish struggled to be a difference-maker for the Hawks, playing 58 games in his rookie season, then only 26 last season and 34 this season. He struggled with an Achilles injury last season, and in his return this season, his reputation as a defender has regressed.
Still, the Knicks will get a good look at him under their tutelage as he is under contract for next season. He is eligible for an extension this summer, but the Knicks could play out the contract and then make a decision when he becomes a restricted free agent.
Knox was the No. 9 overall pick in the 2018 draft and had his moments as a rookie, earning rookie of the month honors early in the season. But with a coaching change, his time on the floor steadily diminished, and other than a few moments this season when the Knicks’ roster was ravaged by injury and illness, he was relegated to garbage time.
Knox has appeared in only 13 games this season for a total of 111 minutes and has become almost exclusively a three-point shooter, with 28 of his 40 field- goal attempts coming from beyond the arc. His defense was always a sticking point, and under Thibodeau, his chances dwindled.
The first-round pick the Knicks are sending to Atlanta will be the Charlotte pick acquired when they traded down in last year’s draft from No. 19. The pick is protected and still will belong to Charlotte if it lands in the top 18 spots. If that occurs, the pick will shift to the 2023 draft and be protected for the top 16 in that draft, and then the top 14 in 2024 and 2025.
The Knicks also will obtain Hill in the deal, but he is sidelined for the season with a torn hamstring. The Knicks had to waive Ryan Arcidiacono, cutting short his 10-day contract, to provide a roster spot for Hill.