Josh Richardson: This Year’s Most Improved Player Talk is Real

Josh Richardson is looking like he could make the jump. Knock on wood, obviously.

In a 120-115 win against Detroit, Josh Richardson had five points in the overtime period to cap off a 27-point night, and tapped out a game-sealing hustle rebound with 10 seconds left in OT. He followed it up with a lackluster performance at home against San Antonio, but not all games can be gems for a fourth-year player. Richardson’s first step to make his leap is to bring a little more consistency on the offensive end.

Becoming the guy

So far, so good. J-Rich is averaging 20.7 PPG so far this year, about eight points more than his mark through 10 games last year. He’s had just one game scoring single digits (and two games over 30), and he’s shooting more aggressively than last year as well. The most glaring change in his stats is an increase in 3-point attempts, up to 7.6 per game, while still shooting 41.2%. Obviously, the percentage will level out as the season goes on, but it shows a definite improvement, and a confidence from an area of the floor that Richardson hasn’t felt comfortable in throughout his career.

He’s seen an increase of .9 rebounds per game, which is another addition to his game that could stay consistent, and is moving the ball just as effectively as last year. The main change in his game is that confidence, and confidence translates to hardware. Specifically, the NBA’s Most Improved Player award.

Look at last year’s winner, Victor Oladipo. He went from playing second fiddle to Russell Westbrook to being “the guy” in Indiana. His scoring went up eight points per game, his field goal attempts went up 4 points per game, which is similar to the increase for Richardson on that side of the floor. The ability to take charge opened up Oladipo’s game, and the same could be said for Josh Richardson.

Continue two-way development

The main difference between the two is defense. Oladipo led the league in steals in 2017-18, and has become known as a lockdown defender. Richardson is just about league average in defensive rating, with 110.3. Oladipo placed top 15 in defensive rating last year, which is something for a long defender like Richardson to aspire to. If he stays in front of guys and starts reaching in for steals effectively, the lockdown defending will come. Lateral quickness is an area of improvement for J-Rich. But, to his credit, Richardson has started to get a knack for timing his blocks, and he’s had at least one block in nine of his first 10 games played.

Interestingly enough (it’s almost like I timed writing this article for this exact occasion), the Heat take on Oladipo’s Pacers on Friday at 8 EST. Watching last year’s MIP take on Richardson will be a very interesting watch, and it will be fun to see how Richardson handles Oladipo’s elite defense.

With Dion Waiters in ankle purgatory, who knows how many games Richardson will have to prove that he deserves 35+ minutes per game? Waiters returning to the lineup might be one of the only major roadblocks to Richardson making the leap this year, but with Waiters not cleared for full contact practice, Richardson certainly has some time to prove that he’s ready.

He’s only 25, he’s on the front end of his prime, and he’s looking to show it. Look out for Josh Richardson.

Follow us all NBA season for more great Miami Heat content @vaughanjasu and @MiamiSportsWave.

 

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