After four previous entries, today brings the end of Basketball Insiders’ “Odd Men Out” series. For those of you that haven’t followed along all week, we’ve looked at players from each division that don’t appear to be part of their team’s future plans. Whether they’re about to be pushed out by fast-developing prospects or the franchise is headed in a new direction, there are plenty that may be on the outside looking in come October.
If you need to catch up, here’s your last chance: Spencer Davies tackled the Central, Matt John handled the Southwest, Lang Greene snagged the Southeast and Shane Rhodes dug into the Northwest. Naturally, that means our series will finish up here with the Atlantic Division.
From Jayson Tatum to Ben Simmons and every talented phenom in between, much of the division boasts up-and-comers wise beyond their age. With potential centerpieces cropping up all over the place, here are five players that might be in trouble in 2017-18.
Boston Celtics — Guerschon Yabusele
Its been nearly a year since this writer posited that Guerschon Yabusele could be a secret weapon for the Celtics. Granted, this was before Aron Baynes and Daniel Theis emerged as the perfect fit for head coach Brad Stevens’ schemes — but outside of a few viral moments, it was a tough NBA debut for Yabusele. The affectionately nicknamed Dancing Bear averaged just 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds over a paltry 33 games in 2017-18, and it’ll only get tougher from here.
At the very least, Yabusele will start the new campaign behind Tatum, Theis and Marcus Morris, with an explosive rookie, Robert Williams, waiting in the wings. Given that Gordon Hayward — who played all of five minutes last season — can grab the lion’s share of minutes at small forward, Tatum will spend the majority of his time at the four. Even if Williams doesn’t leapfrog Yabusele, minutes will certainly be hard to come by for a team with Finals aspirations.
Brooklyn Nets — Spencer Dinwiddie
This entry comes with an obvious caveat: Spencer Dinwiddie is really good at basketball. Still, he can’t possibly be the Nets’ point guard of the future, right?
Following an early injury to Jeremy Lin last season — and then his subsequent trade this summer — Brooklyn has all but avoided that three-headed logjam since Dinwiddie’s meteoric come up. But with just one year left before unrestricted free agency, it remains to be seen where Dinwiddie lays in the franchise’s long-term plans. While Dinwiddie was a well-deserved finalist for Most Improved Player in 2017-18, officially crossing over from G-League standout to an NBA-worthy asset, the Nets are also committed to a slew of other youngsters — a long list that includes D’Angelo Russell.
As the roster’s only completely healthy point guard, Dinwiddie blossomed in Brooklyn’s fast-paced offense, tallying 12.6 points, 6.6 assists and 1.8 three-pointers in 28.8 minutes per game. So, in any case, Dinwiddie will be highly sought-after next offseason and a return may not make sense for either side. Since general manager Sean Marks took over in 2016, the Nets have peered toward 2019 as the first opportunity to own both draft picks and ample cap space once again. Tying up a large amount of that money for Dinwiddie to presumably continue backing up Russell seems to fall outside both parties’ interests.
On top of that, the Nets added Shabazz Napier to the rotation in July — a player that’s far too good to simply be a third point guard. Make no mistake: Dinwiddie will play a ton in 2018-19, but there’s some potential for a midseason split if the Nets feel comfortable moving ahead with Russell.
Philadelphia 76ers — Jerryd Bayless
A true veteran, Jerryd Bayless has traveled well over his 10-year career but he now finds himself in a difficult situation for the budding 76ers. Prior to the NBA Draft, back when the franchise was still courting LeBron James, Philadelphia tried to move Bayless, but no deal was executed. In recent weeks, a Kyle Korver-Bayless swap was allegedly discussed (and quickly shot down) with the re-tuned Cleveland Cavaliers — however, things have become quiet again.
Even with Zhaire Smith’s unfortunate Jones fracture, there just isn’t room for Bayless moving forward as Ben Simmons, Markelle Fultz, T.J. McConnell and Landry Shamet are all likely ahead of him going into training camp. Whether via an eventual buyout or trade, it seems increasingly doubtful that Bayless will remain in red, white and blue.
Although the sample size is small, Bayless averaged 7.9 points on 1.4 three-pointers per game in 2017-18, so there may be some life left in this solid professional career.
New York Knicks — Joakim Noah
It’s been a couple of incredibly long years for Joakim Noah — and still, even after hiring a new head coach, there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel. Noah, a former Defensive Player of the Year winner, has spent much of his two seasons with the Knicks either injured, suspended or banished. Upset over reduced playing time, Noah got into an altercation with former head coach Jeff Hornacek last January and all but disappeared completely. Through seven contests, Noah, 33, had averaged just 1.7 points and two rebounds in 5.7 minutes per game.
With David Fizdale’s summer arrival, there were fleeting hopes that a potential reunion was on the cards — but, alas, those plans lasted shortly as well. As of today, if the Knicks can’t trade Noah — who is under contract for a staggering $19.3 million in 2019-20 — before training camp, they’ll reportedly stretch the once-dominant center. In the case of an absolute miracle, Noah would be still stuck behind Enes Kanter and Mitchell Robinson — but the worse case scenario, which is far more reasonable at this point, is that the former defensive centerpiece has played his last NBA minute.
New York Knicks — Courtney Lee
On the other hand, Courtney Lee has continued chugging along drama-free, but he’s now officially the guy blocking the next perceived franchise cornerstone. If the frenzied reaction to summer league was any indication, the New York faithful are more than ready to embrace recent draftee Kevin Knox. Particularly so in a campaign that won’t see Kristaps Porzingis until Christmas at the earliest, Lee’s role as a 30-plus minute scorer may soon come to a close.
Lee will be 33 years old by opening night and the Knicks will probably feature as one of the NBA’s worst without Porzingis in tow. If the Knicks continue their soft rebuild, they’d be smart to hand the reins to their developing talent — Mario Hezonja, Frank Ntilikina and Emmanuel Mudiay alongside Knox — and stick any remaining veterans in secondary roles before long. Like Noah, Lee is under contract with New York until 2019-20, albeit at a far more palatable $12.7 million in the final year.
Of course, basketball is an ever-changing sport and things can flip at a moment’s notice, so these scenarios may look different come April. But for now, from here, there are some difficult situations to conquer in the Atlantic Division. Between Yabusele getting further buried, Bayless becoming superfluous, Brooklyn attempting to decipher their point guard of the future and two Knicks caught on the wrong side of 30, these are five intriguing storylines to watch out east.
NBA Daily: Who Is Cam Reddish?
An underwhelming season at Duke casts a shadow over Cam Reddish, who oozes talent and potential. Shane Rhodes looks to answer the question: Who is Cam Reddish?
“I’m Cam Reddish.”
Cam Reddish gave the tongue-in-cheek response Thursday at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine when asked “who he is” as a basketball player.
But who is Reddish?
A former high school phenom, five-star recruit and projected top pick, Reddish was expected to flourish at Duke University under the watch of Mike Krzyzewski. When R.J. Barrett and Zion Williamson later followed him to Durham, North Carolina, the three were expected to take the NCAA by storm.
Things didn’t quite go as planned.
While he is still a projected lottery pick, the jury is out on just who Reddish is and how his game will translate to the NBA. A dominant force in high school, the reserved 19-year-old took a backseat to Barrett and Williamson as the three tried but failed to capture a National Championship in their lone season together at Duke.
When compared to the sky-high expectations that were set for him, Reddish underwhelmed mightily as a Blue Devil, and that played a major part in their failure. Relegated to the role of a spot-up shooter and the third option on offense, Reddish averaged an okay, not good 13.5 points on just 12 attempts across 36 games. He managed a meager 35.6% from the field (33.3% from three) and dished out just 1.9 assists per game. When he had the ball, he often deferred to Barrett and Williamson, too often for some.
The focal point of his high school team at Westtown School, Reddish was lauded for the ability that made him a top recruit. He oozed (and still oozes) athleticism – Reddish, who weighed in at 208 pounds, was measured as 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot wingspan at the Combine – and is as versatile as they come. At Westtown, Reddish ran the point, while he spent most of his time at the two-guard or in the front-court at Duke. He was an aggressive, efficient scorer that had no problem getting what he wanted on the floor with the ball in his hands.
But at Duke, that player that Reddish was, the aggressiveness and ease at which he operated, seemed to disappear for long stretches. Those struggles have cast a large shadow over someone that had the look of a future superstar, and Reddish’s draft stock has taken a hit as a result. While some still stand behind him and his talent, plenty of others have faded Reddish in favor of other prospects.
But, at the Combine, Reddish isn’t dwelling on what was or what could have been at Duke. He just trying to learn and get back to being that do-it-all force that he was.
“I’m just trying to learn about the NBA process,” Reddish said. “I’m just trying to get back to who I can be, who I am.”
But that begs the question: who, exactly, is Reddish, and what could he do at the NBA level?
“I feel like I can do everything,” Reddish said. “I was more of a shooter this year – I don’t want to classify myself as just a shooter. I feel like if I just go out there and play my game, I can do a variety of things.”
“Once I show that, I should definitely move up [draft boards].”
There were plenty of flashes of that player during his short stint at Duke. Reddish, at times, seemed to will the ball into the basket, while his shooting stroke appeared to be as good as advertised. He had a knack for performing in the clutch, with multiple shots to win or tie the game for Duke, or keep them in it down the stretch when the others started to fade. The wing managed double-digit points in 23 games, 15 of which he posted 15 or more points (with 20 or more points in eight of those). Reddish managed 18 multi-steal performances and recorded a block or more in 16 games as well.
Wrap all of that up with his plus-defensive ability, and Reddish could very well prove the type of player that could do a little bit of everything for an NBA squad. But he can bring more than that, not only on the court, but off the court as well.
While some may perceive his passiveness alongside Barrett and Williamson as a negative, a lack of “mamba-mentality” or killer instinct that many teams hope for in their top draft picks, Reddish could (and probably should) just as easily be applauded for his willingness to share the ball and step into an ancillary role on a team loaded with talent. As we saw this season with the Boston Celtics, who were projected by many to go challenge the Golden State Warriors for the Larry O’Brien trophy but flamed out against the Milwaukee Bucks after a season fraught with discontent, that can be hard to do on the biggest stage.
And, while he is the quiet type, Reddish made it a point to say that evaluators shouldn’t confuse that for laziness or lack of effort.
“I’m kind of reserved – my personality is kind of reserved – some people might take that as lazy or too laid back. But that’s not just who I am, I’m just a naturally reserved, calm guy.”
There were certainly issues, however.
Despite flashes, Reddish wasn’t the player he could be on anywhere near a consistent basis, even in a smaller role. His time at Duke revealed some major deficiencies in his game and presented some serious causes for concern; a penchant for bad shots, struggles close to the basket and the inability to maximize his athletic gifts. On more than one occasion, he looked to have turned the corner, only to drop another underwhelming performance soon after.
All of that doesn’t exactly bode well for Reddish’s transition to the NBA, regardless of the team that picks him on draft night.
But, the potential is there for him to be great. Now it’s on Reddish to capitalize on that potential.
Reddish could very well prove the most polarizing prospect in the 2019 Draft Class. His ability to maximize his natural talent and recapture the aggressiveness that pushed him to the top of his recruiting class could prove the difference between him becoming the next Jeff Green or the next Paul George
Or, should he really find himself at the next level, he could become the first Cam Reddish.
NBA Daily: Grant Williams: Household Name In The Making
On Friday, Tennessee’s Grant Williams announced that he would stay in the NBA Draft — but this is just the beginning for the collegiate standout, writes Ben Nadeau.
On Friday, Grant Williams made the most important decision of his young career.
After a strong three-year stint at Tennessee, Williams has elected to remain in the selection pool, a choice that will undoubtedly culminate in celebration next month at the 2019 NBA Draft.
At 6-foot-7, Williams effortlessly presents the type of well-rounded skillset that has had scouts drooling all week at the NBA Draft Combine. As Tennesse climbed the NCAA’s power rankings this past collegiate campaign — even standing as Division-I’s No. 1 team for four weeks — Williams’ name and stature deservedly rose too. The Volunteers eventually suffered a heart-breaking overtime loss to Purdue in the Sweet 16 this springtime but by then the damage had been done: Williams was somebody worth watching.
In that late March Madness loss to the Boilermakers, Williams racked up 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and two blocks on 56.3 percent. A few days prior, during the Round of 32, the high-intensity junior stuffed the box score for 19 points, seven rebounds, five assists, three blocks and four steals. And if those numbers seem impressive — and don’t worry, they are — that’s because Williams practically averaged a similar line all season en route to his second consecutive SEC Player of the Year award.
But that’s not the only reason why Williams has first round-worthy plaudits either, showing promise as a flexible defender and hardcore challenger this week alone.
“Just the improvement that I had throughout my career, showing that I progressively got better — I think teams value good guys and value competitors, so then that really helped me over the course of my career,” Williams told Basketball Insiders on Thursday. “And coach Barnes, like I said, those guys that put me in the best position to help win as well as become a better player.”
As a capable three-point marksman (32.6 percent) and an underrated passer (3.2 assists), Williams fit flawlessly into that modern big man mold that every front office has chased in drafts for the last half-decade. The sample size is a tad small at just 1.2 attempts per game from deep in 2018-19, but many will see Williams as a two-way positive — a high-percentage offensive contributor with lockdown capacity on the opposite end.
During the combine, Williams was adept at switching in the pick-and-roll, a skillset that bodes well for defending multiple positions at the next level too. Even more impressive, back in January, he went 23-for-23 from the free throw line to propel Tennessee past Vanderbilt in overtime — aberration, it was not, as he hit at 81.9 percent for the entire season to boot. But Williams believes that his ability to draw fouls could offer a unique glimpse at more of his NBA-ready strengths.
“Maybe, [but] fouls are different in the league, I think it’s more physical of a game — so you might not get those certain calls,” Williams said. “But it’s just a matter of showing your toughness and being able to be that guy that isn’t pushed around and can hold his own.”
Ultimately, Williams is the complete package — all he’s missing now is the household name.
Soon that will change too.
Williams’ massive choice to remain in the draft likely reinforces that his first-round projections were too good to turn down. In Basketball Insiders’ latest Consensus Mock Draft, two writers sent Williams to the Cleveland Cavaliers at No. 26, while the other pair selected him one pick later at No. 27 for Brooklyn. Elsewhere, The Athletic recently plugged him in at No. 27 too and The Ringer went even higher at No. 17.
Yahoo! Sports, CBS and ESPN all have ranked Williams somewhere within that range too, while Andy Katz — longtime draft analyst — openly gushed about the Volunteer on national television.
Unsurprisingly, Williams’ list of honors is much longer than we can feasibly print but the highlights simply prove that the 20 -year-old has reigned atop Division-I for nearly a full year. NCAA Unanimous First Team All-American, 2019 and 2018’s SEC Player of the Year, All-SEC First Team — in both AP and coach-led versions — and plenty of conference-given Player of the Week awards decorate Williams’ budding trophy case. Today, the Volunteers’ Twitter account made the most succinct point of them all: “Plain and simple, one of the best to ever wear the Orange & White.”
And even though he believes that his day one performance wasn’t quite up to snuff, Williams is determined to prove that the best is yet to come.
“Just the defensive consistency as well as knocking down the shot,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “I didn’t shoot the ball well [yesterday], I tested well, I think, I had 20 on the bench press and stuff like that before I played. I think that [today] is going to be a better day to show more.”
Of course, Williams could’ve been lured back for a final, year-long curtain call at Tennessee — but without Admiral Schofield and, potentially, Jordan Bone, that thought became a much more difficult torch to bare alone. Leaving that guaranteed money at the wayside, particularly so without his All-SEC teammates, would have been a tough ask — particularly so if Williams is now destined to hear his name called in the first round.
Still, Williams is built differently and watching him play for five minutes, whether in an NCAA Tournament game or combine scrimmages, quickly confirms that notion.
On Thursday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski joined the analyst’s desk to share a gem he’d picked up from Kendrick Perkins, one of the coaches working at the combine, noting that Williams, out of nowhere, naturally assumed a leadership role throughout the scrimmage portion of the afternoon.
“Williams came in with his team, started organizing the team right away, talking to guys about their strengths, how they could come out here and play well, play to each other’s strengths,” Wojnarowski mentioned. “[Perkins] said it’s kind of rare to see that leadership, that type of initiative in the combine process.”
For Tennessee and their fans, however, that’s just a normal day with Williams, their beloved three-year standout who is finally ready to make his jump to the professional level.
But when asked about what’s he’s getting out of the NBA Draft Combine, Williams offered up a refreshing slice of perspective.
“[I’m] enjoying it, just enjoying the process, as well as enjoying the opportunity because not many guys get this opportunity to be here,” Williams told Basketball Insiders. “And that’s part of the reason why I played [in the scrimmages], I wanted to go through the full experience.”
NBA Daily: Ja Morant Aims To Continue Rising
Not many people knew who Ja Morant was last year, but they do now – and the Murray State star believes it’s not going to end there, writes Matt John.
One year ago, not many in the basketball industry knew the name of Temetrius Jamel “Ja” Morant. Coming into his sophomore year at Murray State, the 19-year-old was slated to be the third option on a team that did not appear in the NCAA preseason rankings.
By garnering minimal attention at the season’s start, Ja Morant used it to his advantage to get to where he is now.
“It’s been a big motivation,” Morant said at the 2019 NBA Draft Combine. “Honestly, coming from under the radar, not being paid much attention to, I can say it made me play with this chip on my shoulder.”
Following a consensus first-team All-American performance and after putting on a spectacular one-man show in this year’s March Madness tournament, Morant’s efforts have skyrocketed his stock all the way up to the near-top. It is widely believed that Ja could be selected as high as second overall in this year’s upcoming draft.
With all the attention that’s been coming his way in the past 12 months, Ja is simply soaking it all in.
“It’s been crazy honestly,” Morant said. “To come from being under the radar to one of the most talked-about players now. Obviously, it’s been rough. It’s something I’m getting used to, but I’m happy for it.”
Even with all the newfound attention in recent months, that hasn’t stopped Morant from remembering how far he’s come and the people who have helped him get to where he is today.
“I feel like I just worked for it,” Morant said. “I never gave up (on) anything. I’ve obviously been under the radar where you probably have doubts. There was a time where I doubted myself, but my parents didn’t allow me to quit. I didn’t allow myself to quit.”
That doesn’t mean he’s out of the woods just yet. As any aspiring professional basketball player would know, transitioning from the college level to the professional is going to be difficult no matter how much hype he may have coming out. Morant clearly understands the tough road ahead and is preparing himself accordingly this summer.
“I have to get stronger to really be able to absorb contact in the league,” Morant said. “I’m in the weight room now actually. I’m working on my upper body. I’m pretty sure everybody knows I can jump, so legs (are) not really a factor, but I do leg workouts too.”
The obstacles ahead for Ja are going to be tough for him to get through. Even with that, he is confident that he will be prepared for whatever challenge he’ll have to face when he comes into the league.
“I think I’m ready,” Morant said. “This is something I’ve been training for all my life. It’s one of my goals, and now I’m in a position to accomplish that goal.”
There will be plenty of room for Ja to grow when he enters the NBA, but he believes his playmaking abilities will be ready enough to help the team that drafts him.
“I’m a pass-first point guard who just loves to get his teammates involved,” Morant said. “I feel like my IQ is the strongest part of my game, being able to make plays for me and my teammates.”
Ja’s passing abilities were very much on display during his sophomore season in college, as he averaged 10 assists per game. However, even though he averaged 24.6 points on 50/35/81 splits this past season, he believes that teams will be surprised most by his scoring abilities as a point guard.
“I really don’t try to focus on scoring,” Morant said. “I would rather take an assist over a bucket any day, but I really feel that I can score the basketball.”
Morant’s future may already be set for the next couple of years. Literally one day after winning the second overall pick in the NBA Draft Lottery, it appears that the Memphis Grizzlies have already decided that they will use the selection on Ja. Despite all the rumblings and the hype surrounding him, Morant’s opted to stay humble throughout the entire process.
“I would really be happy with any team that drafts me,” Morant said. “That means they see something in me. It’s just an honor to play this game at the highest level and to be in the position that I’m in right now.”
Morant’s explosion in the NCAA this season caught so much admiration that some believe Morant may actually be a better player than the anticipated number one pick in this draft, Zion Williamson. Even with all the praise and the higher expectations placed on himself, Ja refuses to use his status as one of the expected top picks to put himself above his fellow 2019 draftees.
“There’s a lot of talented guys in here,” Morant said. “Obviously, to be talked about one of the top players in this draft is just an honor.”