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Stiffs NBA Draft Series: Malachi Richardson

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Fresh off a workout with the Nuggets at Pepsi Center, the Stiffs next look at Syracuse freshman Malachi Richardson in the 2016 NBA Draft Series

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Stiffs will be covering all of the top prospects in the 2016 NBA Draft in our Stiffs NBA draft series. Check back daily for video, stats, and analysis of all the projected first round prospects.

Stiffs Draft Series

Thon Maker Denzel Valentine Marquese Chriss Jaylen Brown
Dragan Bender Cheick Dialo Furkan Korkmaz Skal Labissiere
DeAndre Bembry Jamal Murray Tyler Ulis

Malachi Richardson

Stats

Points Rebounds Assists Steals Blocks Turnovers Field Goal % Three Point % Free Throw %
13.4 4.3 2.1 1.2 0.3 2.1 36.9 35.3 72

Strengths

Shot Creation: Richardson has a natural scoring ability - that is, he's very good at creating scoring opportunities for himself even if he isn't the best at jump shooting or finishing. He's quick off the dribble, can pull up from anywhere, and loves to take advantage of one-on-one situations. On offense he's always in attack mode which makes him a consistent scoring threat.

Length: At 6'6 with a 7'0 wingspan, Richardson has the ideal frame for an NBA wingman. His massive length translated into 42 steals while playing Syracuse's zone (1.2 per game) and will give him the ability to defend multiple positions. At just 200 pounds, he has the potential to fill out his frame nicely which will only make him a better perimeter defender.

Shooting Stroke: At one point it was inconsistent and lacked solid mechanics, but now Richardson has a pretty nice stroke. His shot is quick and fluid and helped him shoot a respectable 35.3% from three on 6.1 attempts, and when he gets hot he can't miss. He still has room for improvement, but it's easy how he could grow into a solid shooter in the NBA.

Weaknesses

Mid-range Shooting: Richardson's biggest red flag is his shooting within the arc, particularly on jump shots where he shot a miserable 23.7%. His 39% overall from two is the lowest of all projected picks in this draft and according to DraftExpress his 51% true shooting percentage is the second lowest rate of any projected player to be drafted. For someone who excels at creating scoring opportunities, this is not good.

Decision Making: With his ability to create opportunities comes another major flaw in his decision making. He is prone to taking bad shots as evidenced by his low shooting percentages. In general he forces the issue a lot and causes bad turnovers. Finally, he likes to size up his man and go one-on-one, but often it comes at the expense of his team's offensive flow.

Pro Comparisons

DeMar DeRozan: I think Richardson's ceiling is a DeRozan type player. DeRozan can be frustrating to watch as he is a perimeter player who can't really shoot the three, he is tremendous at driving to the basket but settles for poor mid-range jump shots and he isn't considered a premier defender despite his athleticism. However, he has ascended to All-Star status off of his commitment to expand and improve his game each year. Richardson kind of falls in the same category, but if he keeps working and improving his game he will certainly succeed in the NBA.

Nick Young: Richardson is mostly likely going to end up as a less athletic Nick Young. He's got good size, good length and isn't lacking in confidence, but the majority of his offense is difficult/forced shots and he has a questionable basketball IQ. Like Young, more often than not he is incredibly streaky in all that he does.

Ronald Murray: Worst case, Richardson ends up like Flip Murray putting up a few decent seasons but ending up in the D-League. Murray wasn't a physical specimen by any means but when given the green light on offense he could score in a variety of ways. He was aggressive but ultimately too inefficient of a shooter, a problem that could be too real for Richardson.

Fit with the Nuggets

If Tim Connelly wants to draft a non-European project player there are far worse options than Richardson. His game is raw and needs lots of work which could take place in limited minutes off the bench as he would fall behind Harris and Barton at the two. If developed nicely he could be a legitimate scoring option off the bench and could easily take over for Barton if/when he leaves. That said, I think there are better options available for the Nuggets at 15 and 19, and if Denver ends up taking Jamal Murray or Buddy Hield at 7 there wouldn't really be a reason to draft him.

The Nuggets did interview Richardson at the draft combine in May and he came in for a workout yesterday so the interest is there. If Denver goes with a 4 or 5 with the seventh pick then I could certainly see Richardson being picked up for insurance and development purposes.

Projected Draft Spot

SB Nation - 27 (Raptors)

Draft Express - 33 (Clippers)

CBS Sports (Parrish) - 24 (76ers)

NBADraft.net - 14 (Bulls)

Final Thoughts

In terms of boom or bust potential in this draft Richardson is near the top of the list. He showed flashes of brilliance in the NCAA tournament this year, particularly against Virginia when he put up 21 points in the second half leading Syracuse to an upset victory and Final Four birth. His tournament performance single-handedly made him a legit draft prospect, and the hype surrounding him continues after his workout in Las Vegas earlier this week.

At this point I'm not completely sold on him yet, and I don't think a lot of others are either. In a lot of mocks he is still a fringe first round pick, often projected to not even be a first rounder at all. He could certainly develop into a solid NBA player but I'm not ready to go all in on someone after one really good game and pre-draft workout. He had a good season as a freshman, being named to the ACC All Rookie Team but I  think he would be best served going back to school for one more season. There he could fine tune his game, improve his basketball IQ and come back next year with an even higher draft stock. For now, though, he remains a high risk/high reward prospect for whichever team takes him.