Syracuse guard Malachi Richardson is made for today’s NBA

Richardson's game is well-suited for the NBA
Richardson’s game is well-suited for the NBA

After I watched that Epic NBA Finals Game 7 which gave Cleveland its first NBA Championship, I was left with two thoughts: 1. LeBron James is a Top-5 All-Timer now, and 2. Malachi Richardson is the perfect combo guard for today’s NBA game.

The NBA is a guard’s league now. The two best teams in the league played long, crucial portions of Game 7 with 6-foot-9 James as the tallest player on the court. The big man isn’t dead, but he’s on life support.

Shooting and ball movement are the modern-day recipe for success. Even Cleveland, who deals in hero ball more than almost any other team in the league, needed timely three’s from JR Smith off of penetration and kick-outs to seal the deal. Cleveland’s win may have momentarily negated the trend the Spurs started and Golden State ran with, but teams aren’t going to dismiss the 73-win Warriors success so quickly. Small ball is here to stay for a while.

Speaking of Smith, he’s the NBA player I’ve heard/seen Richardson compared to the most. A tall, athletic wing with a streaky jump shot. Not a bad comparison, but Malachi has his head on straight, and because of that I think he can become more consistent than Smith. I see a Danny Green/Shaun Livingston hybrid. Malachi is a solid ball-handler in addition to his scoring ability, not to mention an above-average athlete. JR Smith is an excellent 6th man/sparkplug. Richardson can certainly be that, but I also think he can be better- a starting guard on a good team.

» Related: Where will Syracuse basketball find outside shooting?

A lot will depend on who drafts him, and we will revisit this conversation after the draft, but I can easily see Richardson stepping into an important role right away.

Draft experts have had a hard time pinning down where Richardson will be drafted, but it seems to be anywhere from 10th to 29th. I believe it will be in the mid to late teens. What does that mean?

It means he’s going to be drafted by a team ready to compete but that needs some help. It means he’ll be exposed to the right culture, and not the life of a loser. He won’t be able to form bad habits, but also won’t get as much playing time as if he went to cellar-dweller. That’s okay though, because he’ll learn the pro game the right way from the right players.

I trust his shot will become dependable, and as such, couldn’t he fill the 2-guard spot on a number of good teams within the next couple of years?
Just some examples: alongside Derrick Rose in Chicago if Jimmy Butler is dealt? Alongside Kemba Walker in Charlotte? Alongside Chris Paul, and behind JJ Reddick in Los Angeles if he falls in the draft?

He’s definitely a year or two away from being an everyday contributor, but until then couldn’t you see him in a role similar to fellow Orange Dion Waiters? Sparking a good team’s bench?

Malachi is going to find a foothold in the NBA either a great sixth man, or part of the starting line-up. In a league where the two best players on each of the four conference finals teams were guards (Kevin Durant is really a guard despite his size and listing), the league is pining for guys like Richardson. It’s up to him to make the most of it, but he’ll definitely get his chance.

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About Matt Goodman 76 Articles
Matt worked for the Westchester Journal News, covering a variety of sports. He has also covered Syracuse University basketball from 2003-05 in both online and print. Matt graduated from Syracuse University in 2004 and currently resides in New York City.