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Portland-bound: Here's how Duop Reath cracked the NBA
Reath has become the latest Aussie to join the NBA. What impact could he have on the Portland Trail Blazers?
Five years into a professional career that has taken him to Serbia, Lebanon, China and the NBL, Duop Reath has officially become an NBA player. Reath’s talent is no secret to Australian Boomers fans, and it took just five games of NBA Summer League action for the Portland Trail Blazers to sign the 27 year old. The 2024 Las Vegas Summer League was Reath’s fourth foray into the annual tournament, after earning limited playing time with Dallas, Brooklyn and Phoenix in previous editions. Reath had never averaged above ten minutes in the Summer League, but the Trail Blazers gave him a long-awaited opportunity, with an average of 19.5 minutes over five matches.
The 6’11 centre showcased his versatility in one particular Summer League game against San Antonio, where all eyes were on Spurs rookie Victor Wembanyama. Reath more than held his own, scoring thirteen points in a variety of ways - including three putbacks, a three pointer and a layup off a full-stretch catch. In true big man fashion, Reath added nine rebounds and a block to the score sheet, proving to be a double double threat even in an NBA environment.
Reath’s best Summer League game was arguably an 18-point effort against Miami, where he showed plenty of above the rim leaping ability. The lanky centre recorded three dunks, including a putback on the offensive glass, and added two blocks. Once again he came away with a successful three pointer, in a show of finesse to match his athleticism.
At this point in his career, Reath is a versatile big man who can step out to the three-point line, crash the offensive glass and play above the rim. From 2018-2021 he played in Serbia, first with FMP Belgrade, before he joined cross-town heavyweights Red Star Belgrade in 2020-21. At first the move to Red Star seemed like a step up, but Reath had to settle for just sixteen starts across 52 games, while averaging eleven minutes. A move back to Australia for the 2021-22 season reignited Reath’s career, as then-Illawarra head coach Brian Goorjian got the best out of him.
Reath averaged 15.5 points and 7.1 rebounds (including 2.8 offensive) across 30 games for the Hawks, while shooting 49% from the field and 44% from downtown (on 3.5 attempts per game). For the first time in his pro career, he also shot above 60% from the charity stripe, and by a long way. Reath made 80% of his 2.3 free throw attempts per game, in a sign that he reworked his shooting form after leaving Europe. The three-point shooting didn’t quite translate to the 2022-23 season, but Reath still maintained his touch from the free throw line, as a near-80% shooter.
Reath had a busy season in the lead up to the 2023 FIBA World Cup, playing for two Asian clubs - China’s Qingdao Eagles and Lebanon’s Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut. For the former, Reath put up impressive numbers in limited playing time - 18.2 points and 7.8 rebounds across 24.2 minutes per game. He also enjoyed his best season as a rim protector, averaging a touch under two blocks. His shooting percentages —45% from the field and 33% from downtown— didn’t quite jump off the page, but with 5.0 attempts per game from three-point land, Reath can’t be faulted for trying to expand his game.
After 39 games for Qingdao, Reath linked up with Sporting Al Riyadi Beirut for a 10-game stint, as they chased a 30th Lebanese Basketball League championship. Reath proved to be a cheat code for Al Riyadi, who went into the finals with just a 17-5 record. They upset a surging Dynamo Lebanon side, who had gone 24-1 up until that side, yet were trounced 4-1 in a seven game series. Reath averaged 21.4 points. 9.9 rebounds (3.8 offensive) and 2.5 blocks in his Lebanese adventure, proving to be a dominant force in this relatively unheralded competition.
Reath presumably would have been full of confidence after putting up numbers that would earn league MVP honours in a lot of competitions around the world. He took that form not only into the 2023 NBA Summer League, but also another Boomers camp. Reath was previously a member of the Rose Gold Boomers at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, but played a minor role where he appeared in just four matches and averaged four minutes a game. This time around, after evolving into a regular double-double threat at club level, with a reliable three ball and free throw touch, he appeared poised for a bigger role.
An injury to Jock Landale created an opportunity for Reath to impress, in Australia’s first few warmup games ahead of the 2023 FIBA World Cup. In the absence of Landale, Reath started and dropped a team-high 26 points in the Boomers’ first warmup game, a 97-41 romp over Venezeula. He subsequently recorded an efficient 10-point/five-rebound performance (4/6 shooting) in Australia’s shock loss to Brazil, that was a harbinger of things to come. Landale displaced Reath for the third game against South Sudan, but lasted just five minutes before an ankle injury ended his World Cup hopes Reath stepped up off the bench, logging 15 points and six rebounds against his country of birth.
Reath’s hot run continued in Australia’s next set of warmup games, after leaving home soil. He finished on 11 points, five rebounds and four assists in a 78-74 win over France, before adding ten points in the final warmup game against Georgia. In theory, Reath appeared to be the perfect replacement for Landale. Much like his injured teammate, Reath offers a blend of 6’11 size and outside shooting ability. But those who expected Reath to step into a key starting role were left disappointed in the end.
Reath played just 13 minutes in Australia’s shock loss to Germany, despite making an impact with eight points (on 3/3 shooting) and three rebounds. He then had to settle for nine minutes off the bench in Australia’s tournament-ending loss to Slovenia. Slovenian seven footer Mike Tobey had Reath’s number early on, but Goorjian didn’t give his biggest player a chance to get back in the game - at least not for long. The 6’11 Reath could have used more opportunities in a game where Australia’s outside shooting let them down, and they couldn’t find an answer for the hulking Tobey.
Overall, Reath enjoyed a highly productive World Cup campaign despite the argument that he was somewhat underutilised. The near-seven footer averaged 8.6 points, 1.4 blocks and 2.4 rebounds in 14.5 minutes, while shooting a whopping 81% from the field and 75% from beyond the arc (1.6 attempts per game). Sure, it may be a small sample size of five matches, but there’s no denying Reath was highly efficient.
Reath’s World Cup disappointment didn’t last long, as the Trail Blazers snapped him up just ten days after the Boomers’ loss to Slovenia. Aside from hulking centre Jusuf Nurkić, Portland are fairly light in the size department. Their projected power forward rotation includes the likes of Jerami Grant, Nassir Little, Jabari Walker and Jerami Grant - all standing at 6’8 or shorter. At the centre spot, the Blazers have two seven footers backing up Nurkić —John Butler Jr. and Ibou Badji— but both were re-signed on two-way contracts in July 2023.
Given that Reath is on a one-year deal, he theoretically walks straight in to a position as Nurkić’s only genuine backup. Nurkić is an established double double threat in the NBA, but averaged just 27 minutes last season, so there’s plenty of room for Reath to establish himself as an understudy. Reath is also a noted outside shooter since his Illawarra days, with a volume of attempts that far surpasses Nurkić’s trigger from downtown. Don’t discount the possibility of Portland deploying any of the aforementioned power forwards as a small ball five, but that’s not a strategy they will likely adopt for long stretches.
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Moreover, Damian Lillard is highly rumoured to be on his way out of Portland. If so, the team’s chances of playoff basketball will take a hit, but Reath will still have a chance play off talented rookie Scoot Henderson. Portland have built a young team with plenty of upside, featuring Henderson, Shaedon Sharpe, Anfernee Simons and fellow Australian Boomer Matisse Thybulle. At age 27 there’s no reason Reath can’t become a part of this core group, but he first has to get over the hurdle of establishing himself. The stakes are high on a short deal, but if Reath’s recent form is anything to go by, he will do everything to put himself in a position to succeed.