Malachi Richardson is about to enter his third season as an NBA player. However, because of the recent Raptors roster moves by our saviour Masai Ujiri, Malachi does not project to get any meaningful rotation minutes in Toronto. There’s just an abundance of wing players on the team right now.
It’s almost easy to look at Malachi’s previous season and say it’s a lost year. But if anything, last season should give Richardson an idea as to what he needs to do to stay in the NBA: become a reliable 3-and-D player.
The shooting is there — Malachi’s range, quick release, shot mechanics and even the “set-up” (i.e. his jab step) to create an opening when there’s a defender in front of him. If he can apply these skills consistently and show his defensive abilities, maybe there’s a path for him to get something more than garbage minutes.
Unfortunately, Richardson learned real quick that his lack of defense acumen couldn’t quite cut it in the G League (under tough defensive-minded coach Jerry Stackhouse).
So where does Richardson go from here? Barring a trade moving some of the guards from the roster, the G League is the only path for him to showcase his talent while in the Raptors organization. There are just too many good players ahead of him; even C.J. Miles — one of the best shooters in the league — may not get as many minutes as he did last season.
Malachi had a decent Vegas Summer League showing, as he didn’t fail to show Toronto what he’s good at: hitting three-pointers. However, we already know he can do that. Against weaker competition, Richardson was not able to consistently demonstrate that he can do anything else other than hit perimeter shots.
If anything, Richardson finally had a healthy summer where he was able to work on his game instead of rehabbing an injury. He looked good playing with the Bench Mob on Rico Hines’ basketball pickup runs. While defense is not a staple on most pickup runs, it looks like Malachi’s confidence on his shot is growing — that’s a good sign.
Fortunately for Richardson, he’s got a skill that’s currently at a premium around the league — three-point shooting. Additionally, Malachi’s still on a cap-friendly rookie-scale contract, so the Raptors can be patient and see how far they can go with his development. More importantly, on a roster where minutes are at a premium, Malachi has an option to be assigned to the G League to work on his game with the Raptors 905.
So yes, Richardson will have to go the G League route, and he’ll need to show a couple of things: One, that he’s a better talent than your average G League player; and two, that he can defend. If Malachi can turn heads in Mississauga, maybe, just maybe, he can get a few minutes of NBA garbage time to showcase his game.
Remember: the Raptors look to be very, very good this year.