After several years of bouncing around the D-League – with stints in Springfield, Reno, Grand Rapids and Iowa – Willie Reed finally got the opportunity to show what he could do in the NBA last season with the Miami Heat. Reed was a significant contributor for Miami, especially in the second half of the season when the team made their surprising playoff push.
The 27-year-old averaged 5.3 points and 4.7 rebounds in 14.5 minutes while shooting 56.8 percent from the field. Per-36-minutes, that translates to 13.1 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.
When Reed filled in for Hassan Whiteside as the team’s starting center in five games, he averaged 14.8 points, 8.2 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 28.4 minutes while shooting 68.6 percent from the field.
Now, Reed is an unrestricted free agent. Several years after campaigning for a 10-day contract, Reed is in a position to get a significant payday due to his shot-blocking, rebounding and efficiency. A return to the Heat is a possibility, but sources say Reed has drawn also interest from the Philadelphia 76ers, Indiana Pacers, Houston Rockets and Atlanta Hawks.
While Reed is starting to see his hard work pay off, he’s not content with where he’s at as a player. He has been working hard since the end of the campaign, chronicling his training sessions on social media.
“It feels good to be in this position; I know I’ve come a long way, but I also understand that I have a long way to go,” Reed told HoopsHype. “This is just the beginning. Now that I’m in a position where I’m a permanent [roster] guy, I’m going to keep working hard and prove that I’m worth every penny I’m given.”
Reed is setting very lofty goals for the 2017-18 season. Given the right circumstances, he believes he could have a breakout campaign and hear his name called at next year’s NBA Awards Show.
“I feel like I’ve gotten better every single year and my goal for next season is to win the Most Improved Player Award,” Reed said. “I have really high expectations for myself next year. With more minutes, I think I can be the Most Improved Player in the NBA. I want to be an elite shot-blocker and make a big impact. I think it’s just a matter of getting more minutes and experience.
“I think I’ve shown what I can do when I’ve received more minutes. I want to be able to really contribute to a team and help them win. There’s no doubt in my mind that I can help a team win.”
Despite taking a step forward this past season and showing he’s a legitimate NBA talent, Reed believes he remains overlooked.
“I think that I’m underrated and it definitely motivates me,” Reed said. “But I’ve only played in 101 career NBA games, so I get it and it’s fine with me. Now, it’s my job to show everyone what they haven’t seen. I try to get better every single day. That’s why I’m in the gym every night when everyone else is sleeping. That’s why I’m back in the gym early in the morning, doing yoga and on-court work when nobody else is around. I want to be the best player I can possibly be. I’m going to give this everything I have. If I don’t become a star, at least I’ll know that I gave it everything I had in me. I’ll be able to look myself in the mirror and know that I gave it my all.
“You have goals and take steps. First, my goal was just to stick on an NBA roster. Then, once I did that, I wanted to make an impact. Now that I’ve made an impact, I want to play in the postseason and really help a team win in the playoffs. And then, ultimately, I want to win a championship. I understand it’s a process and that there are steps you have to take. I’ve just tried to make sure that I’m prepared so that I can keep taking those steps forward and achieving my goals.”
Reed really enjoyed this past season with the Heat and he credits many within the organization for helping him take the next step in his development.
“I think playing against Hassan every day was definitely big for me. He’s one of the premier centers in the NBA, so getting to match up against him on a daily basis is only going to make you better. I learned from my other teammates too, and the coaching staff really helped me and put me in a great position. They did a really good job of getting the most out of our team’s personnel and making sure everyone was successful. Almost everyone had a breakout year.
“I think my time in Miami helped me grow as a professional and it taught me what it takes to win. Being part of that run in the second half of the season was huge. We really felt like we should’ve made the playoffs and it hurt.”
While Reed’s stint in Miami was a success, it remains to be seen if he’ll return to the team. Reed is open to re-signing and raves about his time with the Heat. With that said, minutes are sparse behind Whiteside and Reed may end up being out of Miami’s price range.
“I love Miami and I’d love to be back there, but I understand it’s a business,” Reed said. “I also have a family. I signed for the minimum there last year; it was a two-year deal, and I felt I had a good enough season to opt out. Now, I have an opportunity to take care of my family after being in the D-League and overseas for multiple years. This is an opportunity for me to make sure my family is set for life. If Miami can provide that opportunity, I’d be more than happy to be back there.”