Miami Heat: Josh Richardson 2016-17 season review

Apr 10, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) dunks the ball during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 124-121 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 10, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) dunks the ball during the second half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won 124-121 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

Josh Richardson came into the 16-17 season with high expectations after a great rookie campaign, but due to multiple factors, he did not live up to these expectations.

One of the bright spots of the 2015-16 campaign for the Miami Heat was the excellent play of rookie Josh Richardson. The former Tennessee volunteer shot 46 percent from three, and showed the ability to defend multiple positions.

Coming into the 2016-17 season, Richardson was expected to take on a larger role, as his previous play had no doubt justified it. Richardson’s season did not quite go as planned, however, as he struggled from beyond the arc, and missed a large portion of the season due to injury.

Richardson was perhaps unlucky at the beginning of the season, as he was thrust into a larger role after the injury to Dion Waiters. The previous season had seen Richardson used as purely a spot-up shooter, as the Heat had the likes of Joe Johnson and Dwyane Wade doing the majority of the ball handling. Richardson was thrust into a tough situation for the first half of the year, and, sadly, did not deliver offensively.

The Heat run a lot of pick-and-roll concepts, and when Dion Waiters went down, Richardson was essentially asked to become a facilitator for multiple reasons. Justise Winslow went down after 18 games, and Luke Babbitt was almost purely used as a perimeter player, which meant the Heat really had no choice. Rodney McGruder showed at the end of the year he could be useful as a creator, but at the time of Waiters’ injury, he had only played around a dozen NBA games.

Richardson was not successful as a pick-and-roll ball handler, as he ranked in the 32nd percentile. He struggled to generate free throws, as he had a free throw rate of just 4.7 percent. When compared to Tyler Johnson’s 12.1 percent, or Goran Dragic’s 13.8 percent, it was clear that Richardson was not fitting in as a ball handler.

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  • To some extent, it is hard to blame Richardson for this, as he was unexpectedly thrust into a huge role because of injuries, and because of veteran departures. Regardless, Richardson’s problems as a ball handler were concerning, and it calls into question whether he can be a long-term piece for a Heat team that feels they are only a few players away from contending.

    As a shooter, Richardson also struggled for a lot of the season, as he shot 33 percent from beyond the arc, a year after posting a league-best clip of 46 percent. He struggled due to the extra attention he received, as Dwyane Wade and Joe Johnson would often draw double-teams in isolation situations, which increased the space and time he had to work with.

    Richardson got a third of his offensive looks in spot-up situations, and he ranked in the 35th percentile. This was simply not enough, and he was outperformed by Luke Babbitt, Tyler Johnson and Wayne Ellington. Richardson’s main offensive weapon was simply ineffective for most of the season. In the previous season, Richardson ranked in the 89th percentile as a spot-up shooter, which was the best on the Heat roster.

    The counterargument surrounding Richardson, is that he was mentally overwhelmed by the role he was thrust into, and this makes a great deal of sense. Richardson was simply ordered to shoot in the 2015-16 campaign, and I don’t think anyone at the franchise would have expected him to need to become a creator in 2016-17.

    For a second-year player on a franchise that has been a winner over the past decade, he may have simply been overwhelmed by his workload. Richardson is offensively limited, but with a reduced offensive role next season, he may return to being the deadly outside shooter that he was previously.

    One area Richardson did not disappoint was in his defending. Richardson not only defends with intensity, but he showed the ability to switch onto power forwards, which is valuable moving forward. He also averaged 1.78 steals per 48 minutes, which was 16th amongst qualified shooting guards. He also averaged 1.19 blocks per 48 minutes, which saw him rank third in the NBA among shooting guards who had played 50 games, behind only Danny Green and Kyle Anderson.

    The Heat’s defense is designed to mask some of Goran Dragic’s deficiencies on that end, and Richardson is a very valuable piece of this puzzle. With a brief glance at Richardson, one might conclude that he does not have the frame to match up with bigs, but he is a tough player who can hold his own in a league that is moving toward small-ball principles.

    Richardson isn’t a perfect player on the offensive end, but I feel he is more valuable on that end than most defensive specialists. Take Andre Roberson for example, who is a terrible free throw shooter and has no perimeter shot, which means that the Thunder essentially run a four-man offense when he is on the court.

    Richardson at least has a perimeter shot that has to be respected. His struggles were largely because he was given too big of a role, but if the Heat reduce his offensive role to just being a shooter, then he may well re-discover some of the form he had in his rookie season.

    Richardson’s ability to defend forwards is something that is pivotal in the Heat’s system, and he is a long-term piece for the team who will likely get paid next summer, as Pat Riley likes to keep a select core of role players. Richardson reminds me of Shane Battier, and players like that can turn good teams into great ones.

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    Overall, Richardson was a bit unlucky this season, but if his offensive role is simplified, then he may actually become more valuable. He shouldn’t be used as a creator under any circumstances, but he needs to play big minutes, as he is the best defender on the Miami Heat roster.