Most NBA fans probably couldn’t tell you what team Willie Reed is on.
His story is the kind that I gravitate toward. Reed grew up in Kansas City, but wasn’t heavily recruited. The 6’10” power forward attended Saint Louis University for two years, then declared for the 2011 draft.
Like many fringe-NBA prospects, the June night ended in disappointment. Undrafted and undaunted, he signed to play in Spain. However, before the season started, he was back in the U.S. He didn’t play professionally that year, but got a tryout with the Sacramento Kings and was one of their final cuts in 2012.
After playing in the D-League, working toward his dream, Memphis signed him at the end of the season, in April 2013. He played well in summer league, hoped to make a final roster spot in Memphis, but was cut again at the end of the pre-season. At the end of the 2013-14 season, the Kings flirted with him again, adding him to their roster, then shuttling him back to the D-League. He didn’t appear in a game, but sat courtside with the team. So close and yet so far. October 2014 brought another chance. A pre-season run with Brooklyn. Nope. Back to the D-League. After a midseason D-League All-Star appearance, Reed was still lingering, a flashing dot on the NBA radar.
July, 2015: The Brooklyn Nets signed him to a one-year deal for $500k. A drop in the bucket for an NBA team. An enormous payday for any human being. Reed’s diligence had literally paid off. Then bad luck hit again. In a preseason tilt with the Celtics, Reed tore a ligament in his thumb. Finally, on December 4, 2015, Willie Reed made his NBA debut. Twenty-five years-old and five years after he’d hoped to make it, Reed had arrived. He played in 39 games for the Nets, averaging only 11 minutes per game, but putting up solid averages of 4.7 points and 3.1 rebounds, with close to 1 block per game. Multiply those numbers by three and you have a 14 pts, 9 boards, and 2.5 blocks.
Fast-forward to January 2017: Reed signed a one-year deal with Miami last summer, and is making close to $900k.
Reed’s performance and playing time have been on the rise in the past month. With Hassan Whiteside on the mend, Miami has seen a pre-deadline value boost as Willie has has taken off.
In 15 January games, Reed’s numbers: 20.5 min/game. 8.7 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.2 blocks, 65% FG%, +6.8.
Teams searching for an reserve interior boost and some rim protection will be calling Miami. Washington, Indiana, and Milwaukee leap to mind. In the West, a team like Dallas, who needs to build with post-Dirk-trajectory in mind, might be interested as well.