Up to this point in the season, the most newsworthy item involving Jason Richardson was that general manager Otis Smith inexplicably signed him to a 4-year, $25 million contract during the offseason. Despite the fact that Richardson is 31 years old and, generally speaking, wing players like him that have relied mostly on their athleticism during the prime of their careers don’t age well when they get older. Yes, Richardson can shoot the basketball but he doesn’t do anything else discernibly well. So if Richardson isn’t making any shots, there’s not a lot of other things he can do to help a team win games.
Fortunately for the Orlando Magic, after a rough start to the regular season in which a sore knee really hampered his play (he had to sit out two games to rest and recover), Richardson has played well as of late. Sadly, like Jameer Nelson, because Richardson has been struggling mightily so far this season, he set the bar pretty low for himself to do better.
That being said, it’s always good to learn about how things work in the NBA and in this case, it’s worth taking a look at how Richardson has been able to make a positive impact for the Magic in their last three games.
Typically when Richardson has it going on offense, he’s getting a majority of his points in post-up chances and spot-up opportunities (either in half-court sets or in transition) as well as via screen-and-curls.
SLIDE 1, 2, 3:
Against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday, Richardson put on display his ability to use his size and strength to overpower smaller guards. On this possession, after a missed shot by Antawn Jamison, Richardson found himself being guarded by Kyrie Irving — the Cavaliers’ point guard. Hedo Turkoglu recognized the mismatch and promptly threw an entry pass to Richardson. From there, Richardson sized up Irving and made a layup in short order.
Seeing Richardson score in the post isn’t uncommon. In fact, it’s something that Richardson does well.
According to Synergy Sports Technology this season, Richardson averages 1.17 points per possession in post-ups based off of 23 possessions, which is why head coach Stan Van Gundy usually feeds him in the post early in games to get him going offensively.
To put that number in perspective, LeBron James averages 0.94 points per possession in post-ups. The difference is that James has been involved in 87 possessions, which shows it’s a main part of his arsenal. Not so with Richardson.
SLIDE 4, 5, 6:
Against the Indiana Pacers on Saturday, Richardson exhibited his ability to score in screen-and-curls. Usually when Richardson is coming off screens, he starts in the paint opposite of Howard, curls around the big fella, and gets the chance at a catch-and-shoot opportunity. One of the many variations of this play is when Richardson catches the ball, takes a few dribbles, and puts up a layup or floater in the lane.
In this instance, Howard is on the left side of the lane while Richardson starts on the right side. Richardson comes around the screen that is set by Howard, gets the basketball from Chris Duhon, and puts up jumper at the free-throw line.
Orlando ran this play several times for Richardson in the third quarter. The Pacers had trouble stopping it, which resulted in several jumpers off of screen-and-curls for Richardson.
SLIDE 7, 8, 9:
Against the Los Angeles Clippers on Monday, Richardson showed why the Magic can be potent in transition with the three-ball as their weapon of choice. Following a turnover by Blake Griffin, Turkoglu rebounded the basketball and dribbled up the court. Several players for the Clippers are trailing on the play, while Richardson eventually maneuvers himself into the right corner. Turkoglu sees him but opts to make the safe pass to Jameer Nelson.
From there, Nelson waited for Chauncey Billups to commit to him defensively, then passed it to Richardson in the corner for a wide-open three-pointer. Chris Paul was too late getting back on defense, as Orlando had numbers.
These are the three primary ways that Richardson scores. The process and result are effective, but it does invite feast-and-famine scenarios. Why? Because whether he’s posting up, spotting up, or coming around screens, Richardson is being assisted on these plays. Literally. Rarely is Richardson creating these scoring opportunities for himself. The play design itself is. Which is why, again, when Richardson isn’t knocking down shots, he can’t find other ways to score because he’s not much of a shot creator.
In other words, Richardson is a shot finisher. And a volatile scorer.
Eddy Rivera is the Editor-in-Chief of Magic Basketball. Follow him on Twitter.