The Boston Celtics sought additional help on the wing after losing Evan Fournier during free agency during the off-season.
The thought process was straightforward: find somebody who can help with the ball-handling duties off the bench while being a respectable defender and offensive outlet. After all, that’s what the team had in Fournier.
So, Josh Richardson came from the Dallas Mavericks as part of the deal, which saw recently acquired center Moses Brown head to Texas. The Celtics must have been impressed with what they saw from their latest wing, as they quickly tied him down to a one-year contract extension before the season began. Perhaps they liked what they saw, or maybe they felt they could increase his trade value, and another year under contract would be more enticing for other teams?
Regardless of their reasoning, Richardson found himself in Boston for the foreseeable future. On the surface, trading for the former Miami Heat standout looked had Brad Stevens’ fingerprints all over it, bringing in a player who possessed legitimate talent on both sides of the ball but had found himself miscast in his previous roles, and as such, had a low trade value. Buy low, sell high, economics 101.
It had been two years since Richardson’s best season in the NBA, with the Heat, and he had struggled to regain his effectiveness at his next two stops. Stevens has always been one for an underdog story.
Richardson Considered Boston’s ‘Biggest X-Factor’
In a recent article for Bleacher Report, Grant Hughes broke down every NBA team’s “X-Factor” and named Richardson for the Celtics. “If he can be a consistent positive on both ends, even in a relatively small role, he could put both his career and the Celtics’ season on firmer ground,” Hughes wrote when discussing what both parties had to gain from Richardson rediscovering himself in Boston.
In his 16 games for the Celtics thus far, Richardson has been a dependable member of the bench rotation, providing 9.3 points, three rebounds, and 1.3 assists in 24.8 minutes of play. Yet, beyond Richardson’s first few games, his level of play has found another gear! According to Basketball-Reference, the veteran wing has scored in double-digits seven times. His 18 point outing against the Toronto Raptors at the end of November is particularly important.
“Richardson isn’t going to pour in points or hand out dimes at high volume. But he can serve as a connector in an offense that has often looked stagnant and disjointed,” Hughes detailed when discussing how Richardson can add value to the Celtics rotation – and that’s exactly what Oklahoma native has been providing.
Richardson’s ability to work off-ball has provided the Celtics with a reliable outlet when the opposing team hones in on the likes of Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. At the same time, the veteran’s ball-handling ability has also freed up some of the Celtics’ more ball-dominant players to get into better scoring situations via screening actions.
If Richardson can continue providing the Celtics with a punch off the bench while being a star in his role, Hughes could find himself being proven right. At that point, the Celtics have a valuable commodity on their hands heading into the off-season.
Richardson Could Remain In Boston
Just because Richardson has been playing well recently, and he could increase his trade value as the season goes on, doesn’t mean the Celtics will trade him. There’s value in having an impactful, cost-controlled veteran on the bench who can come into a game and help turn the tide or steady the ship.
In recent years, the Celtics rotation has been hindered by its lack of veteran know-how, with many fans listing the influx of more experienced players as one of the most important things for the team to address during the 2020-21 off-season. Stevens got to work on adding the requested experience almost immediately, even trading away Kemba Walker for the reliably impressive Al Horford within weeks of him taking up his front-office role.
Sure, having numerous young guys that project to have a high-ceiling is a luxury; we all enjoy seeing Aaron Nesmith get hot from deep or Romeo Langford locking guys up on the perimeter. But Richardson gives you a counter punch when teams come out swinging, and he ensures the bench doesn’t get outplayed while their stars get some much-needed rest.
So, while many see Richardson as a potential X-Factor this season and understand the spike in trade value he will have if those expectations come to fruition, it may serve the Celtics to keep hold of the multi-faceted wing as they make a run at contention during the 2022-23 NBA season.