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The Josh Richardson roller coaster may still have a few twists and turns

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Richardson’s season was underwhelming, and his future in Dallas remains unknown

NBA: Dallas Mavericks at Detroit Pistons Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Season in review

The Mavericks emphasized a focus on improving defensively in the off-season, and a draft-day swap of Seth Curry for Josh Richardson and the 36th pick was the first example of that. On paper, this was a great move for Dallas. Richardson was a big guard who had a reputation as a good defender and a player who could create his own shot off the bounce. This archetype is a perfect fit next to Luka Doncic, but unfortunately Richardson did not fill the mold that he once did.

To say Richardson was a disappointment might be an understatement, especially considering his fall out of the starting lineup and the lineup almost completely in the postseason. He had his moments, and started the season decently well. Unfortunately, after just eight games in a Dallas uniform, he was quarantined in Denver for two weeks and missed nine games due to health and safety protocol. He was never able to find consistency in his game after his run-in with Covid-19 and ultimately was not the x-factor Mavericks fans hoped he would be.

Josh Richardson finished the season with averages of 12.1 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game.

Best Game

Richardson scored 20+ points six times this season, including a season-high 27 in Oklahoma City, but his best game of the year came in a one point home loss to the Phoenix Suns. In this game, Richardson posted 24 points, five rebounds, four assists, and two steals.

Prior to this game, Dallas had lost five in a row, and Richardson had played three games since returning from health and safety protocol. In those three games, he had not scored more than nine points and missed all seven threes he attempted. Against Phoenix he was aggressive early, and helped the Mavs develop a six point halftime lead. He was aggressive on the offensive boards, and followed up two of Luka’s misses in the second half, including a ferocious putback dunk to put Dallas up by two with just over four minutes to play.

He brought the energy and was key on both ends of the floor to keep Dallas in the game. It would have been a winning effort if Devin Booker had not sunk the Mavericks on a tough three over Richardson with 1.5 seconds remaining.

Contract Status

Josh Richardson has a player option on the final year of his 4-year deal for 2021-22. If he opts in, he would make $11.6 million. Opting out would make him an unrestricted free agent able to test the waters of free agency.

The Mavericks will have the most cap space they are going to have for the foreseeable future this offseason, as next season will be the last year on Luka Doncic’s rookie deal. It’s unclear what Richardson would want to do because it’s obvious his fit was not perfect in Dallas, but he also may want to take the guaranteed money with a chance to win. Opting would allow Dallas to maximize their cap space and their options to try and retool while Luka Doncic still makes $10 million a year.

Looking Ahead

Now that the season is over, it is safe to say that the Mavericks lost the Seth Curry trade. Curry has been awesome for the Sixers all year and has been a key reason to their success thus far in the postseason. In theory, Josh Richardson was a perfect fit for Dallas, but in reality he just didn’t mesh. His decision making seemed to fall off a cliff as the season wore on, and his defense was nowhere near good enough to make a case for him to start over Tim Hardaway Jr. The Mavericks have a history of poor draft day trades (excluding the ones for Luka Doncic and Dirk Nowitzki), and while this one did not seem bad at the time, it is disappointing to see how it played out.

I don’t see Josh Richardson as a piece on a Mavericks team that makes a deep run in the playoffs going forward. It was clear in the playoffs that Luka Doncic needs not necessarily more talent around him (although that would help), but more consistency, and Josh Richardson just isn’t that guy. He became unplayable against the Clippers, and, frankly, looked scared when he was on the floor.

That said, there is a more than likely chance that he will be in a Mavericks uniform for at least a portion of next season. He is a class act, and was a finalist for the Community Assist Award. The Mavericks value guys that represent them well off the floor and might encourage him to opt in and run it back in hopes they can get the player he was supposed to be. After all, the Mavericks have not had much luck in free agency and they might strike out again if he decides to opt out and go somewhere else.