Aside from making millions of dollars, Malachi Richardson has gotten a raw deal since being drafted 22nd overall by the Hornets in 2016. For one, he was immediately traded to the Kings, where the owner proclaims Buddy Hield the next Stephen Curry, and the GM makes reverse-arbitrage trades deemed by Zach Lowe to be among the worst in NBA history. In 47 games over two seasons in Sacramento, Richardson averaged 3.5 points and shot 30.8% from deep in 11 minutes a game. Perhaps it was fortunate for the former McDonald’s All American to have been traded to the Raptors, but the deal’s timing put him in a difficult position to succeed.
The Raps acquired Richardson with just 14 games left in the G-League season. To integrate any player into a new system that late was always going to be difficult, but it was made even more so by the strict defensive schemes that then-coach Jerry Stackhouse wanted to run, as Colin Connors detailed before summer league.
“Me being thrown in here, towards the end of the year, it can cause some confusion with things and how we run things,” Richardson told Raptors Republic a month after the trade. Despite the steep learning curve, Stackhouse played the 22-year old over 20 minutes a game, but the production never came. The 3-and-D hopeful shot just 28.2% from deep, adding 3.5 rebounds a game.
Skip to July. I don’t know how much we can glean from Summer League, but Richardson easily looked his best since getting dealt, averaging 12.8 points on 41.7 3FG% (15-for-36), while looking competent, albeit in spurts, on the defensive end. The shot selection is still suspect, though (apparently Richardson’s go-to shot is the lefty step-back, which seems like a bad go-to for anyone). Even after Richardson went 4-for-5 from deep in his second Summer League game, Nick Nurse could only offer a backhanded compliment for his play.
“Malachi was pretty decent today, right?” Nurse said. “He’s got a quick trigger, he’s got some size. We’re really working hard on him with being more than just a gunslinger, but at least he’s that.”
As for Richardson’s NBA preseason, he’s looked much like he did last season with the 905 – rushed and forced – understandable, since his NBA future is at stake. But the turnovers and ill-advised drives into traffic won’t help his cause.
So the outlook isn’t great for Richardson’s NBA career, but he is in the early stages of his first full season with a proven development culture in the Raptors. He’s also shown signs of being able to consistently hit the three, and at 6’6, 205 lbs, he has the prototypical build and (purported) skill set to be of value in today’s NBA. Richardson is almost certainly going to start the season in the G-League, so we’ll see how productive his summer was in a few weeks. Odds are this his last season with the Raptors, but I speculate that the name, the frame, and that famous run to the Final Four in 2016 will have NBA teams watching for signs of an NBA future.