New York Knicks: Should they actually take Cam Reddish over RJ Barrett?

Duke Cam Reddish (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Duke Cam Reddish (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /

The New York Knicks will potentially target R.J. Barrett with their first-round draft pick, but should they be looking at one of his former college teammates instead?

This year’s pool of NBA draft prospects has been labeled by many analysts as a class of three potential franchise building blocks, with a significant drop off in talent between the top three and the rest of the group. It is widely assumed that the first three selections will be made up of a pair of Duke teammates, Zion Williamson — who the New York Knicks lost out on — and R.J. Barrett, as well as a point guard prospect Ja Morant, who has drawn comparisons to Russell Westbrook.

There is no doubt that the Pelicans will select Williamson as the first pick, and recent reports suggest that Morant will be the Grizzlies pick at two. This leaves what appears to be an easy decision for Scott Perry and Steve Mills, a process of elimination will lead them to the final remaining prospect of the elite three.

Barrett came into his freshman season as the top player in his class. A versatile scorer with the length and range of the ideal modern day forward, the college megastar appeared destined to be the first name called on draft night. While Barrett’s lone season at Duke justified the early hype, he was overshadowed by Williamson. Only a generational talent like Williamson could push a player of Barrett’s caliber back on mock drafts.

The circumstances appear to be in the Knicks favor, as they appear likely to end up with a player who in other years may have been the top selection. While Barrett’s stock was undoubtedly hurt by Williamson’s historical season, there may actually be a better NBA prospect who was similarly overshadowed during his time at Duke.

There is no case to be made that Reddish was a better college player than Barrett. While Barrett appeared efficient and poised, Reddish was both inconsistent and lacked commitment on the defensive end. Despite the struggles that plagued Reddish’s collegiate career, his NBA potential is off the charts. That Reddish remains a projected top ten pick speaks much more to his potential than his current ability. Reddish possesses intangibles in his size and shooting stroke that can eventually make him an NBA star.

There are reportedly fans of Reddish within the Knicks front office, and while it was assumed that their interest was likely contingent on falling below the top three in the draft order, the attraction remains.

Selecting a high-risk high reward prospect like Reddish will likely lead to draft night boos from Knicks faithful, yet it has become clear in recent years the team’s front office is more than willing to make controversial choices with top picks. Barrett is both the safe and likely pick for New York, and passing on him could eventually sting. Yet the Knicks are in need of a franchise player, and while Kevin Durant remains the team’s top free agent target, Reddish possess many similarities to the former league MVP.

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What qualities make a superstar in today’s NBA? The league has moved to a style of play that values versatility and raw athleticism over advanced fundamentals and skillsets. To become a superstar in today’s NBA you must possess both natural athleticism and a commitment to constant improvement. The league’s most dominant player was drafted because Milwaukee saw a raw prospect with a body capable of learning to maximize its potential. Reddish is not the Greek Freak, but he is the most intriguing prospect the Knicks could select.