Sometimes, the best moves in the NBA aren’t necessarily the ones that push the fan-excitement needle into the red.
A team might make a splash like Miami did getting Jimmy Butler, but it’s the acquisition of under-the-radar Andre Iguodala that helps get the Heat to the NBA finals.
The Mavericks may not be at that level yet. But their arrow is most decidedly pointing up. And that’s why getting a player like Josh Richardson on draft night is a wonderful move for a team that fashions itself as a comer. If the Mavericks were a song, they would be the Jaws theme, slowly building toward a huge crescendo. They did well in the draft, getting high grades from most analysts.
Getting Richardson should be more impactful in the near term. Rookies are going to require a grace period with the condensed schedule upcoming.
So why is Richardson the kind of player that the Mavericks feel they need? And why was trading away Seth Curry an acceptable loss to acquire the 6-5 Richardson?
Make no mistake, losing Curry hurts. He was third in the NBA in 3-point shooting last season at 45.2 percent, trailing only George Hill and J.J. Redick. You don’t find those assets just anywhere.
But here’s what the Mavericks are getting:
Richardson is 27 years old, three years younger than Curry. He has been more durable than Curry, in spite of missing a handful of games last season with hamstring and concussion issues, among other maladies.
Though he has been with Miami for four seasons and Philadelphia for one – hidden much of the time from Western Conference eyes – Richardson has been a very solid scorer and defender. He’s averaged more than 12 points in his five seasons and led Miami in scoring at 16.6 points per game in 2018-19. Granted, that was a non-playoff team, but it showed that, when needed, Richardson can carry a scoring load.
He’s been a full-time starter for the last three seasons. He will almost certainly continue in that role for the Mavericks.
And he’s got defense in his DNA, which makes him a good fit to work with Luka Dončić.
“The thing about Luka being a taller point guard,” president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said, “is Josh is a really good fit because we can move him around a little defensively.”
The NBA is all about shooting, speed and athleticism these days. The Mavericks are incredibly fortunate to have a superstar who is not overly blessed in any of those categories – although Dončić has more athletic ability than he is given credit for.
So surrounding him with athletes, shooters and defenders is the Mavericks’ new strategy for building a championship contender.
Richardson fits that description.
It’s somewhat like when the Mavericks had Jason Kidd as their point guard. He was 6-4 and played the game with smarts, strength and court vision.
Luka is the same way, and he’s three inches taller.
The Mavericks were able to put smaller players at shooting guard because Kidd could guard different people. They even started 5-10 J.J. Barea at shooting guard in the NBA finals.
With Doncic, they have the same luxury and Richardson can guard anybody from point guards to small forwards. He can switch in pick-and-roll defense and he will be an asset offensively.
Just because he’s not a splashy name doesn’t mean he won’t be a valuable asset. Every contender needs a DeShawn Stevenson.
Josh Richardson has a chance to be that player for the Mavericks.