With Josh Richardson now a member of the New Orleans Pelicans, we wanted to take a deeper look at what he could bring to the table for the team. So to do this, we brought on Spurs’ analyst and Air Alamo Site Expert Noah Magaro-George to help give us some insight on what to expect.
1.) What are the Pelicans getting in Josh Richardson?
Magaro-George: “We’ll get into the basketball details later, but New Orleans got a good one in Josh Richardson. He’s one of the most selfless players to walk through San Antonio over the last couple of years, doing anything and everything this franchise asked of him. Even though Richardson had every reason to be upset, the seasoned veteran never grumbled about DNPs amassed in the immediate aftermath of joining the Spurs at the trade deadline a season ago. He readily took a backseat to the youngsters, putting a supportive arm around them after they made mistakes and offering them words of wisdom on and off the court. Overall, a fantastic guy who brings tenacity and boosts morale.”
2.) How good would you say his defense is? Do you think he’s one of those defenders who is better in theory than in practice? Or do you think he’s actually a bit under-appreciated on that side of the ball?
Magaro-George: “Richardson brings a lot of intensity to his man-to-man assignments, but the results weren’t encouraging. To be fair here, the Spurs burdened him too much on that end of the court, asking him to guard stars like Anthony Edwards, Damian Lillard, De’Aaron Fox, and Paul George for extended stretches. No wonder opponents are shooting 52.7% against Richardson this season, 5.8 percentage points better than expected per the NBA. The veteran swingman was among the team leaders in steals and deflections, though he often gambled, occasionally compromising the team. Playing for a historically terrible defense with inexperienced young players makes it difficult to sort through the noise. He will probably look much better in the more favorable context New Orleans can provide.”
3.) How much do you think being overburdened on a weaker offense has helped improve Richardson’s on-ball creation abilities? Did you see some growth in this area as the season progressed?
Magaro-George: “To be completely transparent with you, I’m not sure taking more primary reps improved his on-ball creation too much. Richardson saw his touches and usage drop at each subsequent stop since leaving Miami, but those numbers climbed for a Spurs team in desperate need of playmaking. As you might expect for a player who had shifted towards a complementary off-ball role over the years, the early returns were so-so. But the more Gregg Popovich showed trust in Richardson to run the second unit, the greater his confidence and comfortability became. The 29-year-old can score at a relatively efficient clip from most places on the court, and his in-between game was a pleasant surprise. The Pelicans are getting a rock-solid bench contributor.”
4.) What kind of role would you expect Richardson to have in a playoff series? Do you think he can play legitimate minutes, or will he be played off the court?
Magaro-George: “There’s a scenario where I can see Josh swinging the momentum as a second-unit spark plug. He can catch fire from beyond the arc in a heartbeat, drain jumpers from the elbow, and periodically create something out of nothing in a last-ditch effort at the end of a shot clock. As we discussed earlier, his defense might be better than anticipated with upgraded teammates. A coaching staff would probably get the most out of Richardson by allowing him to roam and play the passing lanes like a ball-hawking free safety in the NFL. My only hesitancy to claim he could hold his own in the playoffs is his 37.1% shooting in 30 career postseason games. The Heat and Sixers placed too much on his shoulders, and Dallas was a dreadful fit from the start, but maybe Willie Green can strike the perfect balance.”