When the Sixers traded Jimmy Butler earlier this offseason they clearly lost a talented player. Butler ran most of the half-court offense during the postseason and was the team’s closer during the final moments. The defense, the attitude, and the big shot capability made Butler a huge asset, but Butler decided he’d rather sign with Miami instead of competing and in the process, we saw a big-time return.
Standing at 6’6″ with a 6’10” wingspan, Richardson has near-perfect size for a wing player. A catch and shoot threat, tenacious defender, and an athlete with bounce; Richardson is the type of two-way player every NBA team needs. He most likely won’t replace Butler’s scoring, but his game is well rounded and won’t interfere with the development of other players.
Last year Richarson was essentially given the keys in Miami. In turn, he increased his points per game average from 12.9ppg to 16.6ppg. Scoring 20 or more points in 20 games, Richardson showed that he is more than a 3-and-D player. At 26, Richardson has plenty of time to keep improving.
On a team featuring three All-Stars and a fringe All-Stars in Tobias Harris, it’s easy to forget about Richardson with all the hubbub. But what if Richardson is really good? This season is full of expectations for the Sixers as they are a consensus top-2 team in the east. Richardson could already be one of the keys to the Eastern Conference Finals for the Sixers. If he can elevate his game again, we’re talking about a key contributor for a Finals run.
There must be exceptions to this though. The Sixers struggled mightily against the likes of Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving. Even lesser-known scoring Guards like Spencer Dinwiddie lit up the Sixers defense. All of these players are in the same division as the Sixers this year. Richardson’s ability to impact the game in almost every area will be vital for the Sixers. He can shoot, drive, defend at a high level, and even handle the ball when asked to.
Ben Simmons will most likely defend the other team’s top offensive threat with Richardson defending the second option (assuming neither are Centers). So Simmons would likely guard Kawhi Leonard while Richardson guards Paul George. Simmons would guard Giannis Antetokounmpo while Richardson would guard Khris Middleton.
As great a defender as Ben Simmons is (and I believe he is highly underrated), he seems to have issues defending smaller twitchy offensive Guards. This is where Richardson would have huge value. Richardson has shown an ability to affect the shot of the other player. Richardson held his opponents to an impressive 38% shooting from outside of five feet. Myself as an armchair coach, I would put Richardson the Kemba Walkers and Kyrie Irvings of the world. Put Richardson on Walker and Irving while Simmons handles Jason Tatum and Caris LeVert respectively.
The Sixers have an ability to switch defensively which gives me a ton of faith in this team’s playoff ability. Richardson specifically can defend both Guard positions and Small Forwards. His defense is versatile, his offense is proven and he can improve even more. Look for Richardson to be a beyond quality player, possibly even making Tobias Harris available should there be a frontcourt jam of Harris, Horford, and Embiid.
Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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