The Sacramento Kings may have struck gold when they traded Marco Belinelli for the twenty-second pick in this year’s NBA draft.
For sure the judgment of the much loved Vlade Divac is being evaluated by all Kings fans. But in selecting shooting guard Malachi Richardson in the first round, there’s a fat chance that Vlade will emerge with the rep of a GM of great judgment.
Richardson is a one and done. In his only year at Syracuse, he shot 39% from the field and 35% from beyond the arc, scored 13 points per game averaging 34 minutes on the floor and then opted for the draft.
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These numbers do not whisper of a Hall of Fame beginning, but with one year of NCAA ball, he must be seen as a startling prospect.
Coach Dave Joerger sees Richardson as possessing a certain “swagger”. The Kings got a bargain with the “swagger” of Isaiah Thomas—then foolishly let him go and getting nothing in return. Swagger can be a mark of a champion. Magic Johnson had it. Kobe Bryant had it. Will Malachi Richardson deliver?
Somehow Syracuse got to the Final Four. Having lost five of six games coming into the tournament (and only 9-9 in ACC play last year), the Orangemen were also coming off a post-season ban.
Then Richardson led Syracuse into the Final Four surprising the basketball world by beating Gonzaga and Virginia. He led a second-half eruption against Virginia finishing with 23 points. He may be that kind of guy: when presented with utter necessity he plays his best ball.
In the semi-final game, although Malachi scored 17 points against UNC, they had met a better squad. In summer league for the Kings, Richardson’s best game was against Houston with 20 points including three of four from the arc.
Michael Jordan also averaged around 13 points per game in his frosh year at UNC. While that may be setting too high a bar, we just don’t know how far Richardson can go–or what a great pick Vlade Divac made–until Richardson starts his pro career. A good sign will be whether he makes the team in October or is sent to Reno for fine tuning.