With the 22nd pick they acquired earlier Thursday from Charlotte in exchange for Marco Belinelli, the Sacramento Kings selected Malachi Richardson.
Before we analyze Richardson, a note on the deal: In what’s become a rare event over recent years, the Kings seem to have clearly won a draft day deal in the eyes of many. Belinelli simply isn’t worth the 22nd pick in a vacuum, and getting it without being forced to absorb a contract (there had been rumors Charlotte would demand a team take on Spencer Hawes plus send a player) is a major boon for Sacramento. By the same token, it’s a very curious move from Charlotte.
The Kings had several options with the pick after obtaining it, and Richardson is a solid option. He has the frame and build to be a combo forward at the next level, with a gigantic wingspan and 6’6 height, but lacks the athleticism to really fit the “3 and D” mold.
Richardson showcased real ball skills all over the floor at Syracuse, though, and had a great NCAA tournament as a freshman, which is always a positive sign. His shooting numbers from three at the college level were solid, and his form hints at a guy who could be a knockdown shooter in the NBA. He isn’t quick enough to create a ton of organic separation, instead forced to mostly rely on skill and deception, and it’s fair to wonder how well this will translate at the NBA level. He needs major work finishing at the rim, and his mid-range game has been ugly and badly utilized.
The lack of athleticism could hurt Richardson on the defensive end, but he uses his other tools here well enough to mitigate most of those concerns. His huge wingspan is an asset he makes good use of, and he has solid lateral mobility that helps him stay in front of guys and the bulk in his upper body to hold them there.
For Sacramento, so long as they can keep Richardson away from distractions and develop him well, he should fit in. He can probably be a secondary ball-handler in a few years, and if he puts a lot of work this summer into spot-up shooting he could be a good complement to DeMarcus Cousins on both sides of the ball – spacing offensively, defending solidly on the other. His shooting development is paramount, like many other prospects in this range.
The Kings made a solid move to acquire Richardson; the jury will remain out for a while on whether they executed the next step properly.
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