Say the words “trade demand” and most NBA fans will immediately
think of a disgruntled superstar who wants out of their current
situation. Ben Simmons, James Harden and Anthony Davis are examples
of perennial All-Stars who have requested to be dealt in recent
While these are certainly the most high-profile and
well-publicized trade demands, it’s pretty common for NBA players
to ask for a change of scenery. Sometimes, these trade requests are
never made public. Other times, news of the demand will surface
after a deal is completed.
That’s what happened after the Atlanta Hawks traded Cam Reddish
to the New York Knicks earlier this week, as Hawks general manager
Travis Schlenk revealed that Reddish requested a trade last
“Cam had come to us during the offseason and expressed the
desire to maybe get to a situation where he could have a little
bigger role,” Schlenk said. “He’s certainly not the
first player who’s done that. He went about it the right way. There
was no public proclamation. He showed up, went to work every day.
But we told him, ‘Listen, if there’s something that makes sense for
us, we’ll certainly take a look at it.’ So that was a part of it.
We did our best.”
“This year, he made the decision during the summer that he
wanted to go elsewhere and play somewhere else, so it was tough,”
Hawks head coach Nate McMillan added. “It was tough on him to
come in and he was a professional, he was a pro. He didn't do
anything through the media; he came in, he tried to work. A lot of
you guys were asking why he wasn't in the rotation or why we
weren't doing certain things and it was: we knew that he wasn't
going to probably end the season with us. [It's] unfortunate. I
think he has a lot of talent, great kid and I wish him well.”
While Reddish’s name had occasionally popped up in trade rumors
prior to the deal, the reports just indicated that the Hawks were
open to moving him for a first-round pick due to their logjam of
similar players. Despite Reddish's request, the Hawks found a taker
without having to lower their asking price, as New York gave up a
protected first-round pick (via the Charlotte Hornets) and Kevin
Knox for Reddish. (The pick is top-18 protected in 2022, top-16
protected in 2023 and top-14 protected in 2024 and 2025, then it’d
convey as two second-rounders in 2026 and 2027).
“We want players that want to be here, we want players that are
happy to be here, right, but it’s also my job to do what’s best for
the Atlanta Hawks, not necessarily that player,” Schlenk explained. “I don’t know if New
York’s going to be the perfect spot for Cam or not, but my job is
to get the best value I can for Cam Reddish, and we certainly
canvassed the league and had conversations, in-depth conversations,
with a lot of different teams. And we feel like this pick from
Charlotte, even though it does have protections, I think my
analytics group said there’s a 90% chance over the next four years
we get this pick, so we think it’s a real first-round draft pick…
And the one thing I’ll say about draft picks: everybody values
draft picks. Every team might not value a player, but 29 other
teams will value a real first-round draft pick.”
The Hawks’ front office (and Reddish’s camp) deserve credit for
keeping the trade request out of the media, which would’ve hurt
their leverage and diminished Reddish’s trade value.
A rival Eastern Conference general manager spoke to
BasketballNews.com about how difficult it is to keep trade requests
private these days.
“It’s hard. It’s so hard to keep it from leaking,” said
the rival East GM. “I think it comes down to communicating with the
agent at the beginning and telling them, ‘If we’re going to do
this, it has to be completely on the down low.’ There has to be
trust on both sides that this isn’t going to get out. But I feel
like in today’s age, it’s really difficult to keep it quiet.
There’s so much communication out there — players will talk to
other players or their agent will talk to another executive or so
on — and then the word will trickle out to the media. It’s hard to
prevent that from happening. In today’s age, it’s hard to keep it
from getting out there, so other teams often know when a player
wants out. And if other teams know that a player wants out, they
know that they have a little bit of leverage on you so they’re
probably not going to give up as much in a trade. It’s a tricky
situation to be in.”
It sounds like everyone involved in the Reddish trade request
did a terrific job in terms of how they handled this. As Schlenk
said, Reddish “went about it the right way,” and then the Hawks'
decision-makers managed the situation perfectly.
When asked about Reddish’s potential and the possibility of him
becoming a star in New York, Schlenk explained why he isn't worried
about this trade blowing up in his face.
“That’s the hard part any time you’re talking about a
22-year-old player who has played less than 150 games in the
league, I think,” Schlenk said. “He’s super high-talent.
We all see that. He’s got great length, he’s got great size, he’s
got great skill level. But we’re trying to blend the team together
as well, so we have to take all that stuff into consideration. He
could certainly go on and have an All-Star caliber career, and I
wouldn’t be shocked at all by that. But he also wouldn’t be the
first player who didn’t have that All-Star caliber career with the
team that drafted him either. I wish nothing but the best for Cam.
I have no ill will towards him at all.
“I don’t know if I worry about [this trade] coming back to burn
me. I wouldn’t be surprised if Cam Reddish goes on to have a great
career. What I came to is: he probably wasn’t going to have that
The rival Eastern Conference general manager completely agrees
with Schlenk’s mentality.
“You can’t be afraid to be wrong,” the rival GM said. “I
remember early in my scouting, I’d talk about how I could see the
good and the bad; I’d say, ‘Well, I could see why you’d like him
and would draft him, but I could also see why you wouldn’t.’ Just
pick a side! Don’t be afraid to be wrong about a guy. It’s going to
happen. Every single person in this league has been wrong about
players multiple times, and they’re going to be wrong multiple
times going forward. You just have to be right a little more than
your wrong in order to have success. You just can’t let the misses
“I relate it to golfing. If you’re a golfer and you shoot 75,
there were probably 50 shots that didn’t go the way you wanted them
to, but you move on and hit the next one. It’s the same thing with
a shooter: ‘Hey, you missed a shot? Move on. Make the next one.’
You need to have the same mentality when you’re an executive. You
could spend a month preparing for a decision and get all of the
information that you’re going to get and exhaust every channel and
then still get it wrong. Some executives have a great gut, some are
more about gathering as much data as possible to make a decision.
But both kinds of executives get things wrong. You just can’t let
mistakes consume you. You can’t go back and change it, so there’s
no point in stressing.”
Managing a trade demand isn’t
easy for a number of reasons, but it sounds like the Hawks couldn't
have done a better job with the cards they were dealt.