Sacramento Kings: Finding a role for Malachi Richardson

TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 7: Malachi Richardson
TARRYTOWN, NY - AUGUST 7: Malachi Richardson /

Although he’s only been a member of the Sacramento Kings for over a year, finding a place for Malachi Richardson to earn minutes next season will prove to be a challenge.

It’s obvious that the landscape for the Sacramento Kings has changed dramatically in a matter of months.

Dealing away a three-time All-Star and All-NBA player in DeMarcus Cousins obviously comes to mind quickly, but it goes beyond that, as they have overhauled their roster in considerable ways like restocking their veteran presence over the summer.

Now the future has become the focus for the Kings, and that’s evidenced by the number of promising players that they have assembled over the last year and beyond, either through the draft or via trades.

While that infinitely brightens their future, the surplus of young players the Kings have will make it tough for all of them to get the time they need to develop and earn experience in the NBA setting. There may be no better example of that for the Kings than second-year wing Malachi Richardson.

Richardson only has one year of NBA experience under his belt and it’s a bit of a stretch to paint it that way as he logged only 198 minutes of play in 22 appearances with the Kings last season.

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While minutes on the NBA level were scarce for the 21-year-old, the majority of Richardson’s playing time last year came in the newly named G League as part of the Kings’ affiliate, the Reno Bighorns.

In the 11 games he played with the Bighorns, Richardson averaged 21 points per game on 42.6 percent shooting from the field and 44 percent shooting from three.

Now to be fair, playing time for Richardson would have likely increased with the Kings had he been healthy after the All-Star break, but a partially torn hamstring forced the Syracuse product to shut down his season prematurely.

In the time since Richardson has last been on the floor during the regular season, the Kings have rebuilt their backcourt and more specifically, the shooting guard position, in a major way.

Not only did they acquire sharpshooter Buddy Hield from the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Cousins trade during the All-Star break last season, but they also brought in EuroLeague champion and Serbian international Bogdan Bogdanovic earlier this summer on a three-year deal.

Factor in journeyman veteran Garrett Temple, who performed at a very serviceable level last year and the Kings hold three quality players that are slotted ahead of Richardson at the 2-spot on the depth chart. For that reason, it’s hard to see Richardson earning the meaningful playing time he needs to develop at his natural position, barring injury.

However, the one wild card in all of this is if Richardson slots up and plays a fair share, if not a majority, of his minutes at the 3. That possibility was something Richardson touched on earlier as Summer League was about to start when speaking to Blake Ellington of Sactown Royalty:

"“It’s been talked about, but I think I can play the two or the three. There’s no set lineups yet. I’m going to come in and compete no matter who is here and who is not here. It really doesn’t matter,” Richardson said. “With small-ball lineups it really doesn’t matter anyway.”"

Whether that’s a feasible solution for Richardson remains to be seen, but it should be noted that he’s noticeably added bulk to his wiry frame in the offseason. Knowing full well that may just be part of the regimen for Richardson to develop physically as a professional, it might stand as the easiest way for him to get minutes on the floor, given the way the team is built now.

The likely scenario, at least at the beginning of next season, we could see is Richardson soaking up minutes playing for the Bighorns, which is a place that he’s already enjoyed individual success since making the jump to the NBA.

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That’s not a bad thing by any means because reps are reps, but at some point, the Kings will have to make a priority to give Richardson the necessary time that he needs to grow on the NBA level, no matter how minimal it is.