Boston Celtics: Checking in on the progress of Josh Richardson

Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports
Boston Celtics Mandatory Credit: Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports /

I was confused when Brad Stevens decided to bring Josh Richardson into the fray. Yes, the price they paid for him was a no-brainer, Moses Brown wasn’t going to play, and the Boston Celtics had to use the TPE before it expired.

However, Richardson was coming off an abysmal year with the Mavericks after a poor year with the Sixers, and the Cs were coming off an equally lousy season. It didn’t feel like the Boston Celtics were able to take on a project.

Don’t get me wrong, Richardson was no ordinary project. It wasn’t like the Celtics were trading for Jarrett Culver or Josh Jackson. Richardson had a foundation in place to make an impact on the Celtics, but I wasn’t sure if that impact would be better than other players on the market Boston could’ve pursued. His low 3-point output and shot selection concerned me the most, and it’s safe to say those concerns have been mediated.

11 games into the season, and I have eaten my words. Richardson has been nothing but exceptional off the bench for Ime Udoka. His defense was something I expected to translate, but his point of attack defense has been much better than anticipated.

His offense, however, has been what made my takes about him so wrong. Today, we dive into what Richardson has been doing for the Boston Celtics and what you can expect from him moving forward.

Let’s start with the basics. Josh Richardson has played 15 games and averages 9.5 points on +1.5 rTS% in 25 minutes per outing. He’s shooting 47% from the field, 34% from downtown, and 83% from the stripe. Inside the arc, Richardson is shooting 70% from 0-3 feet, 64% from 3-10 feet, 41% from 10-16 feet, and 60% from 16-24 feet. Richardson’s volume is low, but he’s hitting the shots he takes at an exceptional clip.

The more nitty-gritty tracking data gives us a better idea of what Richardson and the Celtics have done this season to improve his game.

Despite his low 3-point percentage, Richardson has been an exceptional spot-up threat, ranking 82nd percentile on spot-up plays. He’s been alright scoring out of pick and roll, ranking 64th percentile in that regard. His drive count is disgustingly low, tallying only 4.1 drives per game, but he has been on fire when pulling up, shooting 54% on pull-up field goals.

He’s sixth on the team in touches per game. 55% of his field goals are taken without dribbling the ball, while 21% of his field goals have been taken after 3-6 dribbles. He’s holding 55% and 50% eFG% in both instances. 40% of his field goals have been deemed, “open” and he’s shooting 45% on those shots.

So what does all that mean? My concern for Richardson’s shooting was confined to behind the three-point line despite the definition of shooting not being constricted to that area. Richardson has always been a strong midrange shooter, shooting 43% on them in his career, and that has proven to be a difference-maker with the Boston Celtics.

Instead of settling for inefficient 3-pointers as he did with the Mavericks, Richardson has been putting the ball on the floor and quickly pulling up in the midrange. When he did that with Philly, he met Joel Embiid’s, Tobias Harris’ or Al Horford’s man. Comparatively, now he dribbles into pockets of open space since the Boston Celtics’ offense doesn’t revolve around post-ups.

Richardson’s defensive prowess goes without saying. His motor has been exceptional, and he’s done a great job in Udoka’s system. He’s been a two-way presence off the bench for the Boston Celtics, and he will continue to be an integral piece to the team as the year goes along.