RJ Barrett vs Cam Reddish vs Thibs vs Josh Hart — the Good, the Bad, & the Ugly

As a special to Knicks.City — we cover tonite’s matchup of the Knicks versus the Portland Trailblazers in Portland at 10 pm EST.

The matchup within the matchup is worth writing about — it is a multi-person duel between Cam Reddish and RJ Barrett and coach Tom Thibodeau and Josh Hart and Miles McBride and maybe Kevin Knox will join in too.

A multi-player standoff like at the end of the movie “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly”.

Or “Reservoir Dogs”.

For the game, Jalen Brunson remains out with the ankle sprain. Immanuel Quickley and Miles McBride will try to apply their on-ball defense against Damian Lillard.

Barrett vs Reddish

But the marque matchup within the Matchup is RJ Barrett vs Cam Reddish. For those unaware of the backstory:

  • Both RJ and Cam starred at Duke during the 2018-2019 season.
  • RJ was picked #3 in the 2019 draft (by the Knicks). Cam was picked #10 in the 2019 draft by Atlanta.
  • Three weeks after the 2019 draft, Atlanta traded for the #4 pick — De’Andre Hunter — whom they got from the Lakers in part of a 3-team trade that netted LA Anthony Davis. In the trade, the Lakers also traded Lonzo Ball and — get this — Josh Hart — who both landed in New Orleans.
  • Cam — having just been picked in the lottery at #10 — found himself on the bench in Atlanta behind De’Andre Hunter. Cam averaged 10 ppg off the bench as a rookie.

Reddish vs Knox

  • After 2.5 years in Atlanta — part of it ruined by COVID — Reddish found himself still playing behind Hunter after Hunter returned from an injury — and demanded a trade. Atlanta traded Cam to the Knicks midway through the 2021-22 season — for Kevin Knox, re-uniting Cam with RJ.
  • Cam played well for NY at the end of 2021-22 but got injured and missed the last 15 games of the year.
  • This year Cam was playing pretty well until a game on December 4, 2022 — the Knicks got destroyed by Dallas in a matinee game at MSG and Cam played like he was stoned. A -16 in 9 minutes; 0-4 shooting and on one play he fell down dribbling to basket and stayed down as ball went the other way.
  • Cam never played for the Knicks again.

Reddish vs McBride

  • Thibs shortened the rotation to 9 players after that game — also benching Evan Fournier & Derrick Rose. Instead, Miles McBride — a 6’2 point guard who plays great on-ball defense — got a spot in the rotation.
  • The Knicks started winning.
  • Over the course of the next 3 months Fournier and Rose did get into a few games when there were injuries but not Cam. He sat on the bench.
  • At the trade deadline the Knicks traded Cam to Portland for Josh Hart.

Why Thibs Didn’t Play Reddish the Last 3 Months in NY

Some on Knicks Twitter can’t understand why Reddish didn’t play at all the last 3 months in NY. My reckoning:

    • To play for Thibs you need to play with defensive intensity and rebound. That isn’t Cam’s nature.
      • Cam is famously 6’8 — every time someone talks about Cam they say “he’s 6’8” — a reference to the fact that he’s a legit 6’8 (not 6’6 and listed 6’8) and athletic and talented. Tremendous skills.
      • But Cam doesn’t rebound well. His lifetime average is 3.0 rebounds per game.
      • Cam is a Smooth, silky, athletic player with a smooth, accurate outside shot and is an excellent free throw shooter (85%). Cam can make tremendous drives to the bucket.
      • Cam defends pretty well by using his length and reach to drape over a player, denying inbound passes to whoever he’s guarding, and intercepting balls in the passing lane.
      • But Cam doesn’t play frenetic on-ball defense or fight thru picks — the kind of defensive player Thibodeau wants. The kind of defense Miles McBride plays — and it was the 6’2 McBride — not the 6’6 RJ Barrett — who took Cam’s spot in the rotation.
    • Once Thibs decided to shorten the rotation, and that Cams wasn’t a fit — Thibs and the Knicks seemed to “ice” Cam’s value by not playing him. My speculation of their reasoning:
      • Playing Cam a few games out of rhythm for a few minutes might reduce his value, and certainly his ppg average (which got locked in at at 8.4 ppg).
      • Most important, playing Cam would risk injury, and why do that when you’re looking to trade him?
      • Cam is a free agent at the end of this season — so his trade value wasn’t high.
    • At the trade deadline, NY traded Cam with their protected 1st round pick in this June’s draft (which will likely be a late-1st-round pick) for Josh Hart — one of the best Rebounding guards in a generation — one who makes hustle plays — a player Thibodeau coveted.

The Good: Reddish vs Hart — Both Great On their New Teams

  • Cam has flourished in Portland — averaging 13.6 ppg through 13 games, in 30.1 minutes a night, and shooting .590 from 2 and .361 from 3.
  • Josh Hart has done great in NY with hustle plays, defense and rebounding. After the Knicks last game, Thibs said this about Hart: “Josh is Josh — every big play in the 4th — loose balls; rebounds. Hit a big 3 when the game was starting to go the other way. That’s who he is. That’s what a playmaker is.”

The Bad: Reddish Finally Throws Hand Grenade

  • Cam never said a word about his benching until yesterday, when, in responding to a question on him not playing in NY, said “It had nothing to do with basketball. It was all the politics, all the favoritism. Shit like that.” — thereby throwing a hand grenade at Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau. And one might say RJ Barrett — his old teammate at Duke — got hit with collateral damage. RJ who gets 40 minutes a night.

Knox vs Reddish Redux

  • Meanwhile, Kevin Knox whom the Knicks traded to Atlanta for Cam last year, signed with Detroit as a free agent last summer and Detroit then traded him at this year’s trade deadline to — get this — Portland.

The Ugly

  • So Knox is in Portland with Cam — fighting for playing time with the player (Cam) he was traded for. He gets minimal minutes off the bench. The NBA can be cruel and ugly.

Tonite: Cam plays RJ and Hart and Thibs and McBride with Kevin Knox as the gunslinger at his side, although Knox is probably looking to gain minutes over him at the same time.

Just before the game, when asked about Cam Reddish, Tom Thibodeau said, “He’s played very well. I’m happy for him. It was one of those trades that I think was good for both teams.”


After this article was written and published, the game of Knicks-Portland was played — and it was a stunning event:

  • The Knicks Destroyed Portland in the 3rd and 4th quarters with a Junkyard Dog defensive attack led by Miles McBride and Josh Hart.
  • Miles McBride put on a SHOW — playing the frenetic, disruptive on-ball defense he is known for, and showing his offensive skills — hitting 3’s and leading the offense when he was at the point — for 18 points on 6-8 shooting (4-5 from 3), and 3 steals for a +17.
  • Josh Hart showed what kind of player the Knicks wanted Cam to be: disruptive, frenetic, all over the court making hustle plays and ripping down rebounds: Hart had 16 pts on 6-13 shooting, 9 rebounds, 8 assists, 3 steals and a +26.
  • Cam Reddish had a listless 2 points on 1-6 shooting in 19 minutes and a team-worst -27 — including hitting the top of the backboard with a UFO 3-pt shot from the corner — that Josh Hart rebounded and went the length of the court with for a score.
  • Kevin Knox played 2 minutes at the end of the game when it had already been decided — and didn’t take a shot.


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