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The pleasant surprise of Josh Richardson

Josh Richardson is becoming a star and needs to be on your fantasy basketball team.

Miami Heat v Chicago Bulls Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Josh Richardson is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The 24 year old is having the best season of his young career. Similar to Malcolm Brogdon in that he was drafted in the second round (they also both averaged exactly 10.2 points per game last season, strangely), Richardson plays in the shadow of first round picks and All Stars (plus, they both play in towns that start with the letter M, gasp!). He’s obscured by the more famous Miami players like Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Dion Waiters, and now Dwyane Wade (again). Miami is a celebrity friendly kinda town and team, but JRich is about as un-celebrity as you can get. You probably don’t know who he is, unless you’re a diehard Los Heat fan. Plus, his name is so boring that you automatically add “CPA” to the end of it. People fall asleep in the middle of Josh Richardson introducing himself. When Josh Richardson signs his name, he quits halfway through out of indifference. Josh Richardson has no contacts in his phone. NONE. That is how un-celebrity JRich is.

In fact, I bet you don’t know a damn thing about JRich. He spent 4 years at Tennessee (playing the third most minutes in that program’s history), and was on the All American Defensive Team in his senior year. Miami drafted him with the 40th pick in the 2015 NBA draft (other players in that second round are Cedi Osman, Montrezl Harrell, Willy Hernangomez, Richaun Holmes, Pat Connaughton, Norm Powell, and my personal favorite, Rakeem Christmas), and the Heat put their rookie to work: He ended his rookie year playing over 20 minutes a game on a team with Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Goran Dragic, Luol Deng, Joe Johnson, and Hassan Whiteside. Not bad!

Things change fast in the NBA, though.

Wade played 30+ minutes per game in 2015-16, and Richardson 21 MPG. Two years later, Richardson is playing 30+ minutes per game and Wade is playing 22. (Wade was in Cleveland for awhile this season before being “traded” back to Miami; I don’t know if you’d heard about this since I know that Cleveland is a quiet, unassuming team in the Midwest that never makes any news). Richardson plays the most minutes on the Heat now, and is probably their most important player: He’s a prototypical 3-and-D wing, is routinely tasked with defending the other team’s best player (non-center), and his offense continues to improve.

Here’s Richardson’s line since December 1st: 35 minutes per game (1st on the Heat), 16 points on 49% shooting (including 46% on threes, which he attempts four times a game), 3.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and over a steal per game and a block per game.

Only 20 other dudes in the entire NBA have been playing more than Richardson since 12/1/17, and only 2 of those dudes are second rounders like JRich (Khris Middleton and Trevor Ariza). He doesn’t score over 20 a game (yet, verrrrrrrry very yet), but he does a little bit of everything, including defensive counting stats like blocks and steals.

Richardson is probably one of the safest all around players in fantasy, actually, because of his versatility and youth. Just imagine a dude like this on a regular, average maturation curve in the NBA: he’ll probably be giving you a 20-5-5 in a few years. That’s Jimmy Butler. Josh Richardson looks like the future of the NBA: a perimeter player who can defend and shoot and pass and create his own offense, when necessary. There’s a reason that Miami is in line to make the playoffs: they give up the third least amount of points to opponents. Josh Richardson, the player who guards the opponent’s best wing players, is a big part of that reason.

The future of Miami rests on the shoulders of Josh Richardson, a 24 year old stud who is only going to get better. I find it hard to believe that Spoelstra, Miami’s coach, will stunt his best player’s growth so that Dwayne Wade can gank some of his minutes, but dumber things have happened. (Having said that, Richardson only played 23 minutes of the last game prior to the All Star break, which was his second lowest minutes total of the season. The Heat lost by 2 to the 76ers in a game they needed, since Philly is currently the 7th seed and Miami is the 8th. Any game you lose by 2 points is a game you could have won. That’s not great, Spo.)

In terms of fantasy, Richardson is a top 40 player this year on ESPN basic. He’s been as, if not more, valuable as Devin Booker (98% owned), Herr Dennis Schroder (94% owned), Tyreke Evans (90% owned), Tobias Harris (90% owned), Blake Griffin (99% owned), Hoodie Melo (97% owned), and Dr. John Wall (his ownership has dropped since his injury, but when healthy Wall is at least 95% owned). Guess JRich’s ownership. Here, I’ll give you a hint: Richardson’s Average Draft Position (“ADP”) is 156th (so, a 13th rounder, basically). Frank Kaminsky was drafted before JRich, on average. Michael Beasley and Joe Ingles were drafted on either side of Richardson. He was NOT drafted as a guy who would end the year as a top 50 player in fantasy, but surely, after the season he’s had, people have noticed and his ownership levels reflect that he’s top 40 in value, top 20 in minutes, and only 24 years old. Right?

Josh Richardson’s ownership is 58.9%. He doesn’t even crack 60% ownership.

He is the 40th best player on ESPN basic.

The 80th best player is Elfrid Payton. Payton is 82.7% owned.

C’mon, y’all. This isn’t tough. Richardson is CLEARLY AND VERY OBVIOUSLY BETTER THAN ELFRID PAYTON. In fact, according to the numbers that most fantasy basketball players base their leagues upon, Richardson is TWICE AS VALUABLE! And, yet, alas, we troubled humans continue to behave as mad, blind fools. If you have Elfrid Payton on your team and Josh Richardson is on your waiver wire, then you need to Wake TF Up and Go Get That Man. If JRich is on the wire in any league, under any circumstances, PICK HIM UP IMMEDIATELY.

I mean, Elfrid Payton, my God. Their ownership disparity isn’t based on the teams they played for because JRich is in South Beach and Payton was in Orlando (now Phoenix; another point guard for the Suns; they didn’t trade any of their centers; they...don’t know what they’re doing). So, what gives, man? Is Richardson so seriously, CRIMINALLY, under owned because he was a second round pick? I find that hard to believe, but Paul Millsap is owned more than him, the same Paul Millsap who is eleventy billion years old and hasn’t played in a game this season since...November.

It can’t be his name, right? Is Josh Richardson’s name so boring and vanilla that it’s actually suppressing his fantasy value? No way!!...I mean, right? There has to be a reason that makes sense. We’re not just hating on this man because he sounds like an assistant regional manager. We’re better than that, right?

So, I dunno, man, but Josh Richardson is MF’ing good, and you’re a sick, sadistic bastard person if you refuse to pick him up as a free agent. Like, he’s a top 50 player (at least) FOR FREE. Call him by a codeword, if you have to. A rose by any other name, y’know? Regardless, he’s a dude who going to be good for a long time. He’s the guy the Heat thought they were getting when they drafted Justise Winslow.

And, if you can trade for him because he’s so undervalued, then absotively posilutely go do that. He might just help you win your league.