There is a lot of hype surrounding the arrival of Malachi Richardson and deservedly so. He’s the No. 29 recruit in the 2015 class and comes in as a highly touted scorer. He’s also Syracuse’s lone McDonald’s All-American in this class. But just how good will he be in his freshman season?
Well there are a lot of factors at play. For starters, it’s a matter of playing time. Richardson is listed at 6-foot-5, but a spindly 195 pounds according to ESPN (he was listed at 210 for the McDonald’s All-American game). That means he probably projects as a guard as a freshman, though he could grow into a wing in his later college (and pro) career.
Trevor Cooney was one of the ACC’s leaders in minutes last season at 37.3 minutes per game. His backcourt mate, Kaleb Joseph averaged 27.3. If all else stays equal, Richardson could see up to 16 minutes per game, although you’d expect both Michael Gbinije and Franklin Howard to also see time in the backcourt. Perhaps Cooney will also not play as heavy minutes given the additional guard depth. Conceivably, Richardson could play 25 minutes per game, but for argument’s sake, let’s go with 15 minutes per game.
What will Richardson do with those 15 minutes per game?
Eric Devendorf seems like a fairly good comparison. Like Richardson, Devendorf was a McDonald’s All-American and was the No. 26 overall ranked recruit in his class (2005).
The difference is, Devendorf was thrust into a starting role his freshman year after five games and played 27 minutes per game. He averaged 12.2 points on 44.5 percent shooting from the field and 37.6 percent from downtown. If you proportionally drop that down to 15 minutes per game, that works out to 6.7 points per game. I think you take those numbers, especially if the shooting percentage remains the same.
On the other side of that equation is Demetris Nichols, who also seems to fit into Richardson’s profile. While Nichols was not an All-American, he was still Scout’s No. 24 recruit and primarily recruited as a shooter.
It’s statistically easier for comparison here because Nichols played 16.9 minutes per game his freshman year, and actually started the final 15 games of the season after Billy Edelin left the program. But if you remember, Nichols struggled mightily with his touch that year, and averaged 4.2 points on 34.7 percent shooting from the field and 23.6 percent from downtown.
Other comparisons I thought of doing included Trevor Cooney, Dion Waiters and Gerry McNamara. I excluded Cooney because he was ranked far too low relative to his class (73). Waiters (27) fit the rankings, but played a different style than Richardson. McNamara (38) is certainly in the vicinity, but he was asked to play point guard, and was also given starter minutes right away. Another famed Syracuse shooter, Andy Rautins, wasn’t ranked in the top 100.
So with Devendorf as the upper limit, and Nichols as the basement, Richardson roughly projects as averaging 6 points on 40 percent shooting from the field and 30 percent from downtown in 15 minutes per game.
And that’s just if he has an average season. I doubt Richardson will be anything but average and will best that projection.