How high is Josh Richardson’s ceiling?

May 7, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) warms up before game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
May 7, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Heat guard Josh Richardson (0) warms up before game three of the second round of the NBA Playoffs against the Toronto Raptors at American Airlines Arena. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports /

After an impressive rookie season, Josh Richardson enters this season with a chance to become the Miami Heat’s starting shooting guard.

Sophomore shooting guard Josh Richardson enters the 2016-17 season with hefty expectations weighing on his shoulders, at least from the Miami Heat’s point-of-view. Over the course of 42 post-All Star break games last season, Richardson broke out in a monstrous way, leading the NBA in three-point percentage while earning rookie of the month honors for March, averaging 12.0 points and 2.1 assists while shooting 53.7 percent from the field and a whopping 58.9 percent from beyond the arc over the course of those 31 days.

An even crazier fact? Richardson shot around that mark from downtown for that ENTIRE stretch, and his hot shooting continued throughout the postseason (though not quite as prolific a percentage after injuring his shoulder in Game 6 during the Charlotte series). A stout defender and athletic wing, Richardson’s upside leads to hope for the future of the shooting guard position in South Florida.

A second round pick hailing from the University of Tennessee (where he attended for four years), Richardson showed out during his senior season, averaging 16 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists in 36.3 minutes per game for the Volunteers. Although he hit his shots from beyond the arc at a respectable rate (36 percent) that year, many skeptics doubted Richardson’s ability to transition to NBA range, but the 22-year-old was happy to prove all the nay-sayers wrong once given the opportunity.

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That opportunity finally came when Tyler Johnson was lost for much of the season due to shoulder surgery, and Richardson took the bull by the horns and hasn’t even glanced back. He embraced the challenge and the work, and now has a very fruitful career ahead of him. Oh, and many more of these highlights, I’m sure:

Not since Dwyane Wade entered the league in 2003 have the Heat had such promising youth at the forefront of the franchise. The electricity both Justise Winslow and Richardson–nicknamed Rook 1 and Rook 2 last season–bring to the floor is exciting. If Winslow can develop a consistent outside shot and Richardson can continue to round out his game, there’s no reason to think the Heat can’t go far with those two at center stage.

Remember that night in Chicago several months ago? Richardson connected on nine of his 12 field goal attempts (four of six from downtown) for 22 points and a plus-13 plus/minus. From March 3rd on, Richardson scored in double figures in 12 out of the remaining 20 games, helping spur the Heat to the third seed in the Eastern Conference while securing home court advantage for the first round. Miami would go on to beat the sixth seed Hornets in the first round, but would fall to the Toronto Raptors in seven games in the conference semis. Richardson averaged 6.6 points and shot 37 percent from beyond the arc during those 14 games while being asked to guard the likes of Kemba Walker, Jeremy Lin, Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan.


I remember when the Heat originally took Richardson with the 40th overall pick. I didn’t think much of it. After all, second rounders generally don’t make those kind of splashes during their rookie campaigns, especially when a much higher-rated prospect like Winslow had been picked in the lottery by the same team. A sleeper pick, nonetheless, he showed pro-potential from the tip during Orlando Summer League. His length, speed and athleticism stood out from the crowd. He could get up and down the court without issue, and could jump and finish with the best of them.

Many reps in the gym later, and Richardson also found himself with a reliable jump shot, and already boasting high confidence, it was only a matter of time before his number would be called, and now his chances of standing out only increase with the departure of veteran presences Luol Deng, Joe Johnson and franchise cornerstone Wade, who left South Beach to join his hometown Chicago Bulls this offseason.

Just how good will the Heat be this season? That’s awfully hard to say. With the uncertainty of Chris Bosh’s health status, there’s no telling who will step up to lead this young group without No. 3 in town. Who knows? Maybe Miami misses the playoffs for the second time in three seasons. Unlikely? Yes, but that’s why it’s the offseason, we’re allowed to create all sorts of scenarios.

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As for Richardson and his future? There’s no telling. You very well may be looking at the future of the Heat with he, Winslow and Whiteside all well under the age of 30. Will he be the next Dwyane Wade? Doubtful. But Richardson could well indeed be the face of the shooting guard position in Miami for years to come.