NBA Prospect Report: Is Syracuse’s Malachi Richardson A 1st Round Prospect?

by Ray Kuhn

Buzz… This is certainly the time of year for it as the NBA Draft is just a few weeks away. As the postseason winds down speculation on the draft will increase.

A new opportunity this season is that underclassman can test the draft waters and then return to college if they don’t like what they hear.  Entering this draft season that is what we expected would happen with Malachi Richardson. Instead, the freshman guard has decided to stay in the draft to the surprise of some.

At this point it is too early in the process to know whether Richardson is making the correct decision. All that we know is that he is going to be drafted. According to Draft Express Richardson is the 37th ranked prospect, but I would expect to see him be drafted in the first round.

After all, why else would he remain in the draft?

Richardson had success last season as he made the ACC All-Rookie team and then he continued that dominance in the postseason. The swingman, at 6’6’ he profiles perfectly as a wing player who is a big shooting guard, carried Syracuse all the way to the Final Four.

While he was a scoring threat during the tournament, Richardson averaged 13.4 points per game with 4.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. He played a lot, 34.4 minutes per game, but he also shot a lot as illustrated by his 36.9% shooting percentage. However, he did average 2.1 three-pointers a night (35.3%) and shot 72% from the free throw line.

As he proved in Syracuse’s run to the Final Four he can score. His skill set allows him to create shots in a multitude of ways, and at 20-years old he is a little older than other freshman and a lot of the other draft prospects. Richardson was also in a tough spot last season as Syracuse really didn’t have much leadership, and with Jim Boeheim suspended things were in flux for a lot of the season. In reality his draft value lies with him harnessing that shot making ability and talent with a little more consistency.

This time of year is ripe with mock drafts, and while Richardson is ranked as an early second round prospect he is being forecasted to be selected in the first round. Per Scout’s breakdown of potential ACC draftees, Richardson can expect to be selected between 19 and 26. Here is what they had to say (click here for the full article):

CBS Sports: #23 – Boston Celtics (Trade with Pistons)
“Here, the Pistons try to get a nice spark plug off the bench in Richardson, a long scoring wing who made a name for himself during Syracuse’s run to the Final Four.” – Sam Vecenie 

Fox Sports: #21 – Atlanta Hawks
“Yes, he’s a long way from being a complete player, but as Richardson showed in Syracuse’s run to the Final Four, few players have more long-term potential than he does.” – Aaron Torres

Rotoworld: #26 – Philadelphia 76ers
“The 76ers love taking chances on great athletes like we’ve seen with guys like Jerami Grant, so Richardson would be an intriguing player to add to the wings.” – Jonas Nader

HoopsHype: #19 – Denver Nuggets
“Combine the fact that he shows the ability to shine in big situations, the fact that he is a great kid with a developing skill set, and the fact that he has a 7-foot wingspan, and you can see why teams feel he has a good chance to be a first rounder this year.

This draft, more than others, seems to be based largely on speculation. With that being said I also have Richardson going to Denver, but with the 15th pick in the draft. There has to be a reason why Richardson is remaining in the draft, and off the heels of his play in March Madness, he is a rising commodity.

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