November 18, 2020. Draft Day. That’s when the Dallas Mavericks made their biggest move of the off-season, trading Seth Curry to the Philadelphia 76ers for Josh Richardson and the 36th pick in the 2020 NBA Draft.
The 36th pick ended up being Tyler Bey, who played a total of 71 (mostly garbage time) minutes this season. The jury is still out on Bey. Might he be a rotation player someday? Sure. Might he be out of the league in two years? That’s also a possibility. I like to think I’m higher on Bey than most, thinking he can make an impact as early as next year, but even if I’m right, that impact would likely be small. For now, Bey is a non-factor in judging the Seth Curry trade.
All of the weight falls on Josh Richardson’s shoulders and after Game 7 against the Clippers, it’s more clear than ever: the Mavericks lost the trade, and they lost it by a wide margin.
Richardson had an up-and-down season, but the highs were brief and not all that high, while the lows were frequent and shockingly low. He averaged 12.1 points per game on 42.7 percent shooting from the field and 33 percent shooting from deep. This was supposed to be a guy that could stretch the floor for Luka Doncic and also guard the opposing team’s best perimeter guys. Richardson couldn’t do either of those things.
This Clippers series was the exact reason you bring a guy like Richardson in. With two of the best perimeter defenders in the league on the opposing team, the Mavericks needed a backcourt partner for Doncic who could help keep those defenders honest. Likewise, the Mavericks needed a guy like Richardson to help make life tougher on Kawhi Leonard and Paul George when they had the ball in their hands. Again, Richardson couldn’t do either of those things.
Tim Hardaway Jr. proved to be a better starting option next to Doncic. Hardaway makes threes, can create a little off the dribble, and is barely a step down on the defensive side of the floor. Not only did Hardaway prove to be a better option in the starting lineup, but Richardson proved unplayable, as shown in Game 7.
With the season on the line, Richardson played six first-half minutes. Those six minutes were terrible and shined a light on the entire Josh Richardson experience. He recorded 0 points (0-of-1 from deep), 0 rebounds, and 0 assists while turning the ball over twice. His two turnovers: a horrible inbounds pass that led to a Leonard dunk and a live-ball turnover when he tried to shot-fake and take his defender off the dribble. The latter put Richardson’s ball-handling issues on display for everyone to see. Check it out:
Josh Richardson played for six minutes in Game 7 and then Rick had seen enough. Tough to keep him on the court when he legitimately can't do things off the dribble. This is a pretty elementary turnover. pic.twitter.com/1aY0MeqPlY— luka (@luk3askew) June 7, 2021
I know this is one specific play, but if Curry is in that corner, the play looks way different.
Richardson was a mins-8 in his six minutes of action. Plus/minus is a flawed statistic, but Richardson being a minus-8 in six minutes isn’t a coincidence. He was a liability to have on the floor.
You simply can’t trade someone like Seth Curry for a guy that is unplayable in the biggest game of the last nine or so years. Will Richardson be on the team next season? Impossible to say, but I doubt it. Regardless, it doesn’t take away from the damage that trade did to the Mavericks this season.
I’m not trying to hate on Josh Richardson. He works his butt off, and he seems like a team-first guy. But the simple fact is that he’s just not very good, and if you’re not impacting a playoff game, it has to be addressed. I hope Richardson works on his game and can get somewhere close to the level people thought he was at two years ago. But for now, he’s not a guy that can play NBA playoff basketball, and that was made more obvious than ever in Game 7.