In just five games with the Philadelphia 76ers, the former Tennessee product has been a seamless fit, wreaking havoc defensively and proving reliable offensively.
Following the first glimpse of Philadelphia 76ers basketball, an annual intrasquad scrimmage at the team’s Delaware Field House, Josh Richardson stated, “I’m not coming in here trying to be Jimmy Redick…Those are two of the best guys in the league at what they do. They did great things for this team and this city. I’m just coming in here trying to be the best J-Rich that I can be.” Comparing Josh Richardson to Jimmy Butler and/or J.J. Redick will be the albatross around his neck for the foreseeable future, but the fifth-year guard has worked vigorously to establish his own identity. In fact, comparing Richardson to his predecessors would be unfair and do no justice to emphasizing how perfect of a match he has been with Philadelphia, acing all of his tests thus far.
Through five games, the Philadelphia 76ers are capitalizing on their speed and athleticism, starting 19.8% of their possessions with a transition play, the most in the NBA. Richardson has had the basketball in his hands in transition with 19.7% frequency, contributing 2.5 transition points per game on 40.0% shooting. In addition, the hybrid guard is scoring 6.4 points in the paint/game, 3.8 points off of turnovers/game, and 2.8 second chance points/game, all career-highs.
Although Richardson is engineering the Sixers’ half-court offense as a pick-and-roll ball handler an average of just 4.8 times per game (27.6% frequency – lowest since 2017), he is being unleashed as an independent creator.
Richardson is driving to the basket 12.4 times per game, scoring 6.4 points ( > Jayson Tatum’s 3.8 Driving Points /Game on 11.2 Drives) and converting 47.8% of his driving field goal attempts. He has attempted 17 free-throws in 2019, his highest mark through his first five games in his career. He sports a shooting fouled percentage (percentage of shot attempts a player is fouled on) of 7.7% in 2019, his highest notch since 2015 (8.2%).
Richardson is receiving 52.0 passes/game, and he owns a career-high 48.0% field goal percentage on unassisted shot attempts through five games. Despite amassing just 3.6 assists/game, Richardson is averaging 9.0 assist points created/game, nearly as many as Chris Paul, who makes an average of 6.3 more passes/game than Richardson.
The Philadelphia 76ers are bullying opposing defenses and finding mismatches to exploit, most of which occur within close proximity of the basket. The Sixers are taking shots within four feet of the basket with 37.9% frequency, 2.0% more often than last season, yet convert 69.9% of their field-goal attempts there in 2019, a 4.1% increase compared to 2018. Philadelphia’s backcourt is unquestionably responsible for improving their shooting efficiency around the rim, as both Ben Simmons (71.0%) and Richardson (77.0%) are making over 70.0% of their baskets there.
The addition of Richardson for Philadelphia is being demonstrated defensively though, where his impact has been monumental.
Richardson owns a defensive rating of 97.1 in 2019, the most
impressive rating in his career by roughly 9.0 (previous career-best: 106). He posted a defensive rating of 85.0 or lower in victories over Boston and Minnesota. Richardson’s defensive ratings against Boston and Minnesota were good for seventh and 13th lowest in a game this season among all qualifying players (minimum of at least 30.0 or more minutes), the only player this season to find themselves within the top-15 twice.
Richardson has stolen the basketball away from an opponent at least once in all but one game this season, bringing his per game average to 1.6 (10th most league-wide). His eight total steals this season is tied for seventh-most in the NBA, a category led by fellow teammates Matisse Thybulle (14) and Ben Simmons (13). The 6-foot-6 combo guard has blocked six total shots this season, tied for third-most among NBA guards.
Although the sample size is incredibly small, Richardson owns a 60.0 clutch defensive rating, accompanied by Ben Simmons (60.0). Both Josh Richardson and Al Horford are the only two starting 76ers that are allowing opponents to shoot over 35.0% from beyond the arc, but they are two of only three Sixers holding opponents under 50.0% on two-point field goal attempts.
More precisely, Richardson is limiting opponents to a field-goal percentage of 26.7% on two-point shot attempts. Likewise, Richardson is one of three Sixers players to deflect at least 2.8 passes a game, altogether averaging the third-most team deflections per game throughout the NBA.
The perimeter wing defender in Richardson is contesting an average of 4.4 two-point shot attempts/game and 3.2 three-point shot attempts/game, bringing his total to 7.6 contested shots/game (T-9th/NBA Guards). Six different Philadelphia 76ers players own a negative defensive point differential (for reference, a greater negative number represents better defense) and Richardson’s differential is -8.1%, the best of any starting Sixer by 5.9%.
It’s without coincidence that this 76ers defense has made vast improvements through its first five games, with the addition of Josh Richardson.
Philadelphia is surrendering 101.2 points per 100 offensive possessions, their lowest mark since 2011. There is seemingly no longer a defensive liability at the guard position on the floor that opposing teams can consistently attack, largely thanks to Richardson’s defense. The twenty-six-year-old Richardson covers so much ground defensively. While empty possessions due to suffocating defense don’t show up in a box score, his presence is constantly felt on that end of the floor.
The ability that Richardson possesses to close-out shots as a defender, rotate along the perimeter, hedge screens, and stay leveled while defending shifty guards is all a testament to ‘just’ how good his defense is.
Richardson’s impact has been invaluable so far for the Philadelphia 76ers, serving as a dependable creator offensively and an anchor on the defensive end.