Going from top dog in Miami to the fourth or fifth option in Philadelphia is going to be a big change for Josh Richardson, but one that he should be able to handle well. He brings a lot to the table for any team fortunate enough to acquire his services, and luckily, the Sixers will be the ones able to deploy his interesting skill set. Now that he is in a role more fitting of that skill set, Richardson should be able to take another step forward and help the Sixers make the jump to true contender.
As a member of the Miami Heat, Josh Richardson was often thrust into a position where he had to be the team’s top option. Richardson is a great player, but he is not the type of player that an offense should be based around; in Philadelphia, that will not be an issue. Now playing alongside the likes of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford, Richardson will be able to focus on using his blend of athleticism and shooting to help out his new team, without being keyed in on like in Miami when he was one of the Heat’s only consistent scoring options.
With so many unproven players on the Heat roster, it was on Richardson to shoulder much of the load on offense, and he did as good a job as you could hope for a player in a tough position. Shooting from the outside has never been the most impressive part of his game, but this year he became much more comfortable in that area, which led to his attempts from 3 taking a big jump.
After shooting just over four 3-pointers per game in 2017, Richardson averaged 6.3 shots this past year. With the additional shots taken, the belief would be his percentage may have dipped due to other factors, such as the defense being played on him as well as roster construction, and yet his numbers stayed nearly the same. Going from a 38 percent 3-point shooter in 2017 to 36 percent in 2018 isn’t much of a change at all, and now that he has other players to take the pressure off of him, there is a good chance those numbers improve over the next few years.
When you see these numbers along with his true shooting percentage of 54 percent, there should be no reason for concern. Richardson is a good, not great, shooter who will give the Sixers the good looks from outside that they desperately needed to address this offseason.
The loss of JJ Redick has left a giant hole to fill on the outside of the Sixers’ offense, and while Richardson won’t command as much attention as an outside shooter, he should be able to help soften the blow of losing Redick in free agency. Besides shooting, Richardson also brings the ability to drive the lane and use his incredible athleticism to make life difficult for defenses, whether the ball is in his hands or not.
It’s obvious that the offense will always run through Joel Embiid, and with so many other contributors surrounding the big man, a player like Josh Richardson might fade out of the spotlight on any given night. Just because he isn’t having the dominant game you might see out of a player like Embiid, though, doesn't mean he isn’t having an effect on the game. Sixers fans have become accustomed to players making winning plays that don’t show up on the stat sheet, and the love affair that started with Robert Covington and Mike Scott because of those types of plays should endear Richardson to Philadelphia fans rather quickly.
Looking around the league it seems like a lot of the contenders now have two stars on their team. With the Sixers deploying both Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons every night, they will be able to compete with the best of these contenders. Now that they improved the rest of their starting lineup, it can be debated that the Sixers have one of best, if not the best, starting lineups in the entire league, thanks to their ability for any of the starters to take over for the entirety of a game. Josh Richardson is the perfect example of a player who can take over on any given night, and now that he doesn’t have to rely on doing that every game, he can focus on being the well-rounded spark plug of a player that made him such an enticing player to trade for in the first place.
Not many teams in the NBA have a player of Josh Richardson’s caliber as the fourth or fifth option on offense, and that's only one of the many reasons the Sixers will be such a dangerous team. No longer the alpha like he was in Miami, Richardson will still be able to enforce his will on both sides of the court, just in a bit of a reduced role.