Just a few games into this year’s NBA season and it seemed like Elton Brand and the Sixers had finally pulled all the right strings in building a championship contender. Facing off against his former team on November 23, newly acquired Josh Richardson poured in a season-high 32 points during a blowout win against Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat.
Richardson hit six threes, shot 73.3% from the field, recorded four steals, and played a critical role in defending Butler. With the team 11-5 at this point in time, fans were beyond excited to have Richardson on the roster moving forward.
However, just a few months after that glorious night against Miami, the tale has started to take a different spin. Richardson has seen both his PPG and AST drop compared to last season, is shooting a career-worst from beyond the arc, and has missed 19 total starts due to injury.
Richardson was acquired in the Jimmy Butler sign-and-trade back during the offseason, and for all intents and purposes, the deal made perfect sense. JRich was coming off a monster 2018-19 season in which he averaged close to 17 points per game and shot 35.7% from three. Combining his athleticism and his seemingly improving perimeter shooting, it appeared like the perfect fit next to Ben Simmons.
Richardson had a daunting task ahead of him entering Philadelphia, he had to make up the production lost by both Jimmy Butler and JJ Redick. Not only were the SIxers expecting him to be a secondary ball-handler and elite on-ball defender, but they desperately needed him to space the floor as well.
Unfortunately for both the Sixers and Richardson, the fit just doesn’t seem as perfect as it did a few months ago. Richardson has really struggled to provide reliable spacing (32.7 3P%), and his lack of availability has forced the Sixers to start guys like Furkan Korkmaz at times.
For a team that expects Joel Embiid to miss time regularly, they truly can’t have anyone else in their starting lineup missing multiple games.
Richardson is surely a good player when healthy, there’s no debating that. He’s had some monster performances this year against quality opponents like Boston, OKC, and the LA Clippers. However, his “fit” with the roster is questionable at best.
Richardson operates best with the ball in his hands, a role that is primarily reserved for Ben Simmons. While he’s capable of hitting open threes, it’s nothing compared to the elite spacing that JJ Redick provided less than a year ago. Richardson’s defending has been a pleasant surprise, but it’s hard to justify keeping him longterm solely on defense when the organization has first-round pick Matisse Thybulle waiting in the wings.
With former G-League standout Shake Milton impressing this year as well, there’s now some serious competition for the starting SG position.
Richardson has two-years left on his current deal (player option in 2021) before he becomes an unrestricted free agent. The Sixers are expected to be extremely active in the trade market this upcoming offseason, and JRich is likely the team’s best trade piece (excluding Simmons, Embiid, Harris).
With a payday looming, there’s minimal stability in Richardson’s long term future in Philadelphia. If a large offseason trade package for an impact player (Buddy Heild for example) rests on Richardson being included, the 76ers likely won’t think twice about shipping him away.
Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports